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India Tourism Sets its Sites on the Open Seas

image courtesy of Janet van Aswegen from Pixabay

Shri Gangapuram Kishan Reddy, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Development of Northeastern Region, Government of India, said that cruise tourism is one of the most vibrant and fast-growing sectors of the leisure and travel industry. The promotion of coastal tourism through beach tourism, lighthouse tourism, and cruise tourism will help communities such as fishing communities to find other livelihood opportunities and supplement their income. 

He said that through the Central Financial Assistance Scheme, the Ministry of Tourism has been supporting tourism infrastructure by developing ports and cruise terminals, lighthouses and river cruise circuits and purchasing ferries. He further added that the government is also working towards developing dedicated terminals for cruise passengers and cruise vessels.

“The government has recognized cruise tourism as a niche tourism product to attract tourists,” the minister said while alluding to the initiatives for the sector. 

The minister said that under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, the Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned ten projects under coastal thematic circuits worth Rs. 648.80 crore across various States/Union Territories. 

The government has also sanctioned 228.61 crores for various projects on developing cruise terminals and related infrastructure at major ports under the ”Assistance to Central Agencies for Tourism Infrastructure Development” scheme. These include the development of cruise terminals, lighthouses, and other tourist infrastructure in Goa, Mumbai, and Visakhapatnam.

Alluding to the need of tourism policy for the country, the minister said, “we are now working towards formulating the comprehensive national tourism policy” and exhorted the industry members at the event to prepare a proper roadmap for development of river tourism in India and create an action plan for the river cruising in a mission mode.

Speaking on the various efforts taken by the Ministry of Tourism, Shri GKV Rao, Director General (Tourism), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, said that the “country’s perennial rivers will offer a historical experience and state governments are developing inland waterways tourism policies to cater to domestic tourists and international travelers.”

Addressing the Potential of River Cruising session, Shri Sanjay Bandopadhyaya, Chairman, Inland Waterway Authority of India, Government of India, said, “we are developing more jetties and terminals on the banks of rivers and providing night navigation and river information systems to increase the efficiency of the movement of cruises.”

IWAI Chairman added that the government has brought about changes in the Indian vessel act 2021 to anchor a unified system of survey, certification of the vessels and the personnel. He said there will be a unified licensing system for the entire country and the vessels will not be required to take licenses from each and every state.

“The certificates and licenses given by the state will be valid for the entire country and also help develop a unified system of quality,” he said.

Shri Ashutosh Gautam, Member (Technical) & Member (Traffic) (I/C), IWAI, Government of India, highlighted the status of waterways and interventions to improve infrastructure and promote river tourism.

In addition, eight MoUs – between private players in the cruise tourism sector and the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) and Mumbai Port Authority – were solemnized in the presence of Union Minister G Kishan Reddy and Shri Sarbananda Sonowal. These include:

1.            IWAI and Antara Luxury River Cruises for River Cruise between Varanasi (UP) and Bogibeel (Dibrugarh, Assam) via Kolkata under the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route.

2.            IWAI and JM Baxi River Cruise between Varanasi and Bogibeel via Kolkata under the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route 

3.            IWAI and Adventure Resorts and Cruises for Development of Long Cruise on Kerela Backwaters (NW-3)

4.            Mumbai Port and Angriya Sea Eagle Ltd for home porting their cruise ship in Mumbai for the upcoming cruising season

5.            Mumbai Port and Waterways Leisure Tourism P. Ltd for home porting their cruise ship in Mumbai for the upcoming cruising season

6.            Mumbai Port and Training Ship Rahaman for being an existing service provider in the field of Maritime Training for Cruise Vessels and to recruit Indian seafarers to support Indian Maritime Vision 2030

7.            Mumbai Port and The Apollo Group USA for being an existing service provided to cruise operator in India, with approximately with 600 seafarers

8.            Chennai Port and Waterways Leisure Tourism P. Ltd. for home porting their cruise ship in Chennai for the upcoming cruising season

The second-day session covered topics such as contactless on-boarding to meet customer expectations for safety protocols, technology initiatives at the terminals (infrared camera, thermal scanning, facial recognition, etc.), technology initiatives for a seamless travel experience, and the availability of telemedicine with its remote clinical services, among others. Also, the session explored the state of river cruise tourism in India and its possibilities for expansion, the adoption of best foreign practices appropriate for Indian conditions, and a clear policy on vessel availability and deployment during off-seasons. 

The conference concluded with the success stories presented by the Chhattisgarh Tourism Board, Karnataka Maritime Board, Kerala Maritime Board, New Mangalore Port Authority, Odisha Tourism, Lakshadweep Tourism, Andaman Nicobar Tourism and Maharashtra Tourism.  

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Anil Mathur - eTN India

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