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2017-06-27 18:23:51

Cruise Tourism with a clear drawn Actionplan to be a growth driver for India’s economy, says Nitin Gadkari

The Minister of Shipping and Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari today said that Cruise Tourism was one of the fastest growing components of the leisure industry worldwide, and can be a major growth driver for the Indian economy by generating huge employment opportunities.

Gadkari was speaking at the National Workshop on “Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India”, in New Delhi today. The workshop was also attended by Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (I/C) Dr Mahesh Sharma, and representatives of all stakeholder organizations – both from the government and the private sector – including regulatory agencies which deal with issues impacting cruise tourism.

Pointing out that tourism has the highest investment to employment multiplier, Gadkari said that on an average, employment generation on a cruise ship is 1 job for 3-4 passengers. With India having the potential to cater to 700 cruise ships per year as against 158 handled this year, the cruise industry can generate more than 2.5 lakh jobs for ten lakh cruise passengers, giving a big boost to the country’s economy.

He further informed that cruise terminals are being developed at five major ports – Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Mangalore and Chennai. In addition, the transport potential of 111 inland waterways will also be tapped. Work will start for developing ten inland waterways by the end of this year. This includes the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra on which work is already in progress, he informed.

Gadkari called upon state governments also to play an active role in promoting cruise tourism by developing, packaging and marketing their tourists attractions to draw more and more tourists.

The Ministry of Shipping has been working actively with all relevant ministries and organizations of the government to promote cruise tourism in the country. A joint task force headed by Secretary Shipping and Secretary Tourism was constituted for the purpose, and a global consultant was engaged for drawing up an Action Plan. The objective of today’s workshop was to discuss this Action Plan which requires various arms of the Government to take action for creating an enabling business eco-system for growth of cruise tourism in the country.

Speaking on the occasion Dr Mahesh Sharma said that India is fast growing as an attractive tourist destination. To realize the full potential for cruise tourism in the country there was a need for all stakeholders to work together, in cooperation with each other, and create a favourable ecosystem for growth.

Highlighting the efforts of the Shipping Ministry for promoting cruise tourism, Dr Alok Srivastava, Special Secretary (Shipping), informed that e visa, e-landing and incentives like minimum rebate of 30% on all cruise vessel related charges and additional rebate of 25% for coastal cruise movement have already been implemented. Further to this, a joint task force has been set up by the Ministry of Shipping & the Ministry of Tourism and an action plan for deriving standard operating procedure has been drawn, which would be implemented in a time bound manner after discussion with various stakeholders.

Secretary Tourism Rashmi Verma said that the coming together of the Shipping and Tourism ministries to promote cruise tourism in the country would help maximize the benefits that the sector has to offer.

Stakeholders discussed several regulatory issues pertaining to various aspects of cruise port operations namely security, immigration, customs, and ports in the workshop. They worked towards drawing up Standard Operating Procedures for all govt. organizations for cruise vessel handling.

Studies have also pointed that with a rich heritage, history, natural resources, India has immense growth potential for cruise tourism.

What needs to be improved?

As seen globally, it is generally the responsibility of the region or destination to sell themselves to the consumer. The India port market currently does a poor job at selling the destination to the potential world cruise consumer and to date has just begun to look inward at the India consumer option.

The India region will need to grow its word of mouth (B2C) and general branded tourism targeting cruise line decision makers (B2B).

For India to capitalize on the huge cruise tourism opportunity, India will need to become a region as it is currently not recognized due to its limited consumer demand and market presently observed. Asia, Middle East, Caribbean, Aus/NZ and others will be pulling cruise vessel deployments to open new consumer markets over the next 3- to 5 years. India MUST create domestic and International consumer demand, produce higher yields, lower costs of operations and alleviate policies that negatively impact cruise line deployment and growth to become a regional cruise destination of substance with an opportunity to grow.

More ports and destinations will be needed to grow the India cruise market as 5 key ports will not be enough to generate continued consumer demand. Thus, island and thematic destinations will be required to supplement the itinerary patterns and draw new cruiser tourist to the market. Additionally, key regional partnerships focused on creating an expanded marketplace will be significant for growth. They may include Muscat, Male, Colombo, Port Blair, Singapore, etc.

For cruise lines to return to India following poor homeport operations, the goal needs to be to improve on all cruise operational and regulatory matters. India will need to provide assurances to cruise lines that future calls will be smooth, efficient and profitable operations.

Key items for success

• Creating and developing the right market atmosphere
• Immigration process for cruise tourism
• Security procedures that do not impede movement
• Taxation regime that allows for a platform for growth
• Customs & Duties procedures that do not tie the industry
• Internationally comparable tariffs
• Port and tourism infrastructure that meet the needs of the cruise line and visitor today and tomorrow

As seen globally, one of the major characteristics of an attractive cruise destination is a customer-friendly and hassle-free logistical process for the disembarking and embarking cruise passengers. This ease of process is essential as passengers begin and end a cruise holiday visiting India destinations and touring tourist sites.

In the majority of the destinations worldwide Authorities understand the nature of cruise and rely on the vessel operator’s own security procedures and data collecting systems at ticketing, embarkation and debarkation to gather and submit this information for clearance processing. The time for processing and the gathering of personal data relates more in particular to procedures with regard to Immigration, Security, Customs and Health and Taxation, all of which could impact the embarkation and disembarkation processing times as well as the hotel functions on board for non-debarking passengers and crew.

In view of the above, the Ministry of Shipping based on the key recommendations from the study, will lay down an Action plan for improvising the procedures which will be put up to the various stakeholders:

• Security
• Immigration
• Customs
• Ports

The Ministry of Shipping along with Ministry of Tourism facilitated an assessment study by a global consultant, for Preparation of an Action Plan for Development of Cruise Tourism in India. The assessment process was undertaken by the consultant via three aspects – stakeholder interviews, site visits and user interviews with the cruise line decision-makers. The key findings so far, of the study by global consultants is summarized:

Strengths

• Strong brand – Incredible India
• Rich in history, culture and attractions
• Potential for good revenue from shore excursions
• Good will to improve business and processes amongst all stakeholders
• India is a tech savvy country / ease to modernize systems

Opportunities

• Government to commit to standards
• Training long term cruise business strategy
• Focus on delivering outstanding passenger experience
• Create awareness and demand for India as a cruise destination
• Improve service and attitude and create a new awareness at national and international level
• Clearance and immigration procedures to meet international of new procedures and attitude at mid to lower level staff from CIFS, Immigration, customs and others handling cruise
• Assist cruise lines and India stakeholders to make more revenue from tours and increase passenger satisfaction
• Tourism board to develop a cruise strategy targeting B2C and supporting B2B (together with ports, operators, agents)
• PR campaign to improve the perception of India worldwide
• Product development for cruise to be done as destination level
• Guide training programs (technique, content and languages)
• Port authorities to become educated and involved in cruise matters – assign cruise manager for each port
• Cruise coordinators to be assigned for each destination
• Expand river cruise activities
• Port infrastructure developed for cruise operations and future expansion
• Develop cooperation with Sri Lanka, Maldives and Arabian Gulf ports
• Implement berth allocation policy
• Develop new ports and destinations in India
• Improve tender facilities to access islands and small ports
• Taxi drivers and union education and training program for tourism (inclusive of cruise) at national level

Weakness

• Little demand from India as a cruise destination
• Visa process is lengthy, complicated and expensive
• Clearance and Immigration procedures are lengthy, complicated and inconsistent from port to port
• High port fees based on Gross Tonnage
• Attractions located far from ports
• Ports not adequate for cruise
• Cabotage restrictions for Indians to travel in Indian itineraries (shorter cruises are most preferred



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