Govt sets up committee to create enabling eco-system to boost cruise tourism

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Mumbai, May 14 (PTI) Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday said the government has set up a high-level committee to create an enabling eco-system for the development of cruise tourism in the country.

The committee comprises government officials and cruise industry players.

Sonowal on Saturday inaugurated the first two-day International Cruise Conference being held here.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, the minister said the government aims to make India the most attractive cruise tourism destination and the industry the world's largest one in the world.

The Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways also informed that the government has set up a Task Force under the Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and the Shipping secretary as its vice-chairman.

The high-level committee will assist the Task Force with its ideas and suggestions to the committee, he said.

"I declare the constitution of a High-level committee comprising both government officials and national and international industry players. It will assist the Taskforce and give it ideas and suggestions," Sonowal told reporters.

Emphasising that the purpose of the international conference is to make India a cruise tourism hub, the minister said the government will provide whatever modern infrastructure is required to attain the objective.

He also expressed hope that the state governments will also play their role in the promotion of the industry, which is seeing demand coming back after being hit during the pandemic.

"India is going to be the most attractive destination of cruise tourism, and there is no doubt about it because whatever potential we have in the coastal areas and inland waterways are now set to be explored. It is still untapped. So, we will explore it with our most modern infrastructure," Sonowal said.

India aims to increase cruise passenger traffic from 0.4 million at present to 4 million. The economic potential of cruise tourism is expected to go up from USD 110 million to USD 5.5 billion in the years to come, according to an official release.

To boost the cruise tourism industry in the country, the government has taken several initiatives, including infrastructure up-gradation, rationalisation of port fees, removing ousting charges, granting priority berthing to cruise ships, and providing e-visa facilities, among others, the release added.

Upgradation and modernisation are being carried out at seven major ports in the country, including the flagship New International Cruise terminal coming up in Mumbai with a total cost of about Rs 495 crore.  Sonowal asserted that the Indian cruise market has the potential to grow 10 folds over the next decade, driven by rising demand and disposable incomes.

"The government realises this potential and is determined to position India as a global cruise hub with state-of-art infrastructure for both ocean and river cruises," he said.

The sea cruise terminal, coming up at BPX-Indira Dock, is expected to be commissioned by July 2024. It will have a capacity of handling 200 ships and 1 million passengers per annum. Similar infrastructure up-gradation is taking place in Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata.

Earlier, Sonowal along with his deputy Sripad Naik laid the foundation stone for the third Chemical berth at Pir Pau Jetty and remotely inaugurated Kelshi Lighthouse in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

"Four theme-based coastal destination circuits, such as Gujarat Pilgrimage tours, West Coast – Cultural and scenic tours, South Coast – Ayurvedic wellness tours and East Coast – heritage tourism have been developed to activate cruise demand," said Naik while addressing the conference.

"Lighthouse and Island development is also being undertaken to attract Coastal tourists while river cruise or inland cruise is another potential component of cruise tourism that could be explored," he added. PTI IAS BAL BAL