By Gour Kanjilal
Travelers are seen opting & experimenting with cruise products by adding it into their travel itinerary. It is fast emerging as a new marketable commodity/product. Growing at the rate of 12% per annum globally, this sector has witnessed some activity in India as well in recent times. However it is still in its infancy in India.
Cruise Ships are like moving township studded with state of art facilities and variety of recreational activities. The idea is fast catching, as journey on board cruise liners is not only pleasurable, but also comparatively free from sea travel health hazards. Experience in the Caribbean, Latin American and South-East Asian countries indicate that huge amount of foreign exchange can be earned and employment can be provided on shore by providing the right policy environment and infrastructure for the growth of cruise shipping.
Cruise liners are launching additional new ships to cater to the increasing passenger capacity and maintain its product pricing in order to remain in business. Cruises are no longer considered the privilege of the rich and the elderly and today more and more younger tourists are cruising. This industry annually generates US$ 14 billion world-wide and enjoys a passenger base of over 10 million, which is expected to almost double by 2009. As regards number of cruise ships, projections/forecasts are that the number will increase. By the end of 2011, revenues are projected to increase 13.5% with cruise currently accounting for travel Two to Four percent of market share of the total vacation industry. Thus there remains plenty of room for growth. India tourism planners have noticed the potential in this sector and have accordingly putting greater emphasis for Cruise Tourism. Emphasis is also for its economic benefits which can accrue to country's interst. "There is tremendous scope for cruise tourism in the country given India's strong domestic tourism sector, growing middle class and the country's 7517 km long coast time said Kumari Selja Union Minister for Tourism while launching Louis cruise Operation recently.
The Principal beneficiary of the Cruise Shipping is the economy of the respective maritime nations where the cruise vessels call. Cruise Shipping world over, is seen as employment generating leisure activities. On an average about 1000 passengers travel on a vessel; (medium size). When such vessels arrive at a Port, automatically there is demand for a whole lot of services. Thus a cruise call results in gainful employment to a lot of people, and the earning could be in foreign currency if the tourists are foreigners. Cruise ships also require bunkers, provisions, bonds stores in large quantities agency service, crew etc. All these demands can be met locally. To that extent, there will be contribution to the Indian economy.
In respect of the current status of the cruise industry of India, it has been seen that while the growth rate witnessed globally in cruise shipping sector (in terms of cruise ship fleet and passengers carried) is in the range of 10% to 20%, Indian coastline is not witnessing the same growth pattern. At present, no Indian shipping line owns any luxury cruise liner. As regards the trend in Cruise (foreign lines) passengers landing at Indian ports, it may be seen from the Statement given below that the no. of cruise passengers have been increasing since 2004-2005
||Number of Cruise tourists
Ministry of Shipping Govt. of India.
While on statistics; it is also learnt from other sources that a total number of 106 cruise ships called at Indian ports in 2008-09 as compared to 55 in 2003-04. Similarly the number of passengers increased from 34, 372 in 2003-04 to 2,40,307 in 2006-07. It went down in 2008 due to global economic slowdown. The number itself shows the possible rate of growth in cruises tourism sector in India. About five to six million people, out of which 60,000 people are from India. India thus holds 5% market share in the world wide cruises business. This was told by Mr. Ankur Bhatia Executive Director Bird group while talking about immense potential India holds while launching Silversea cruises operations recently in Dec, 2009.