Mumbai, Apr 21 (PTI) The Indian cruise market has the potential to grow by 10-times over the next decade, driven by rising demand and disposable incomes, Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on Thursday.

He also said the iconic sea-cruise terminal coming up at BPX Indira Dock Mumbai International Cruise Terminal is expected to be commissioned by 2024.

Addressing virtually a media conference, Sonowal, who is the minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways, on the first two-day Incredible India International Cruise Conference, to be held in the financial capital from May 14, also said that India is gearing up to be a magnificent cruise destination and capture the growing market.

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“Indian cruise market has the potential to grow by ten times over the next decade”, he said adding, “the flagship Sagarmala initiative by PM Narendra Modi is connecting the ports of Chennai, Vizag and Andaman with Goa, which receive maximum tourists”.

The Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, the Mumbai Port Authority, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) are jointly organizing the two-day event, which is happening for the first time in the country.

The conference aims to deliberate on ‘Developing India as a Cruise Hub’ and and showcase business and investment opportunities in the cruise tourism sector.

In addition, a host of speakers, experts, policymakers, and industry leaders will deliberate on policy initiatives and developing port infrastructure for the Cruise Ecosystem, promoting the technology and highlighting the river cruise potential and opportunities for vessel chartering and manufacturing.

Cruise tourism is recognised as the fastest-growing segment in the leisure industry. In addition, the government categorizes cruise tourism as a niche tourism product.

“The conference on international cruise tourism aims to showcase India as a desired destination for cruise passengers, highlight the regional connectivity, and disseminate information about India’s preparedness for developing the cruise tourism sector”, the Minister said.

He said the iconic sea-cruise terminal coming up at BPX Indira Dock Mumbai International Cruise Terminal is expected to be commissioned by 2024, which is one of the next steps forward.

The terminal will have a capacity of handling 200 ships and a million passengers per annum. The project cost is Rs 490 crores, out of which Rs 303 crores will be incurred by Mumbai Port Authority and the remaining will be borne by private operators, he stated.

“Being a central place of the maritime sector in the country, this conference will attract more global players”. Operators of river cruise tourism will also participate in the conference, he added. The river cruise tourism brings in several hundred thousands of tourists in the country, said the Minister.

Sonowal further said, the Maritime India Vision (MIV) 2030, launched in March 2021, in its 10-year growth map gives significant emphasis on promoting and development of ocean, coastal and river cruise along with lighthouse development.

“The plan is estimated to create above 2- lakh new jobs and meet the expectations of the cruise visitors and the cruise industry and also provide momentum for infrastructure development,” he added.

The minister also unveiled the brochure, logo, and the conference’s mascot – Captain Cruzo besides launching the event website.

The two-day international conference will witness participation from stakeholders, including international and Indian cruise lines operators, investors, global cruise consultants/experts, senior government officials from the Ministry of home, finance, tourism, and ports and Shipping, state maritime boards, state tourism boards, senior port officials, river cruise operators, tour operators, and travel agents, among others.

This conference will be important for promoting cruise tourism in India so that the country can take leadership in this sector globally, he stated.

“Cruise tourism is one the most vibrant and fast-growing components of the leisure industry. India did have a promising start in 2017 when the first international cruise stopped in India at the Mumbai port where over 1,800 passengers experienced their first international voyage from an Indian port.

“Since then, cruise tourism in India has increased manifold. In 2017-18, 238 cruise ships called on ports in India with 1.76 lakh passengers. The largest ship ‘Spectrum of the Seas’ visited Mumbai Port in 2019. However, the COVID pandemic and the resulting suspension of business in 2020 caused a major blow to the cruise industry,” the Minister said. Sanjeev Ranjan, Secretary, Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, highlighted the number of  initiatives to promote cruise tourism in India, which resulted in a 35 percent year-on-year growth in cruise tourism prior to the pandemic hitting the country in early 2020.

“In 2019, we had more than 400 cruise vessels coming to our shores, and reached 4- lakh cruise passengers”, he said, adding that despite the COVID setback, the country’s  ports have been able to develop the infrastructure needed to make the landing of cruise passengers easier in the last two years.

Owing to India’s growth with a higher disposable income, we expect the cruise traffic to go by ten-times by 2030, he said.  “Through this initiative, we aim to promote cruise tourism and attract tourists with specific interests. Mumbai has been the cruise capital of India and has persistently seen a rise in the growth of cruise passengers and cruise vessels before the pandemic,” said Rajiv Jalota,  Chairman, Mumbai Port Authority.

River cruise tourism has also seen a substantial rise in the past few years in the northeast and northern part of the country. In addition, small cruise vessel manufacturing demand seems to be coming from various parts of India. PTI IAS MR MR