City emerges as major cruise destination, to host 259 ships this fiscal

Mumbai Port Trust, which is transforming itself into a cruise port, has announced the homeporting — the point of origination — of Costa Victoria, the largest foreign cruise vessel to have ever homeported in India.

The Italian-flagged vessel of Costa Cruise with a capacity of 2,400 passengers, will sail from Mumbai to Maldives till February-end.

Mumbai growing

Mumbai, which is emerging as a cruise destination, is projected to receive 259 cruise ships in 2019-20 with an estimated 1.81 lakh passengers as compared to only 40 cruise vessels received in 2015-16 with 37,820 passengers.

The growth is a result of the port authorities and Union Shipping Ministry streamlining processes to make it easy for international and domestic cruise lines to operate in India.

Among the five ports (Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, Kochi and Chennai) that receive cruise ships in India, Mumbai has received the maximum number of vessels and will continue to do so, said Sanjay Bhatia, chairman, Mumbai Port Trust.

To cater to the growing number of cruise passengers, the current terminal building in Mumbai is being replaced by a new terminal that is 10 times the size of the present one, he said. The port, along with private partners, is investing about ₹353 crore in the new terminal.

‘Huge potential’

Mr. Bhatia said cruise tourism has vast potential in India. Quoting a report commissioned by Indian Port Association (IPA), he said this sector has economic potential of ₹35,500 crore, including ₹28,400 crore for Mumbai, in 10 years from now. In 2016, this amount was a mere ₹712 crore, in which India received only 0.2 million passengers and hosted 166 cruise ships with an average of 1,200 passengers.

He said India has potential to host 955 cruise ships and can have 4 million cruise passengers. Of this, Mumbai alone can host 700 ships and 3.2 million passengers.

This sector has potential to generate employment for 2.5 lakh people, including 2 lakh in Mumbai. In 2016, this sector created employment for 5,000 people.

Mr. Bhatia was speaking on board Costa Victoria, which arrived in Mumbai on Friday. This is the fourth year that a Costa Cruise vessel is homeporting in Mumbai. Till February 2020, it will cruise between Mumbai and Male, taking on board both Indian and foreign passengers.

The first voyage of the season started on Saturday, and the trip was sold out. A seven-night Mumbai to Male cruise starts at ₹27,500 per person and can go up to ₹49,500 plus taxes.

“Cruise tourism should grow in India and in this year, 600 cruises will call on Indian ports,” said Mansukh L. Mandaviya, Union Minister of State for Shipping , on board the vessel. “This has been made possible as we have brought synergy between 16 stakeholders who are working in harmony.”

Vishakhapatnam and Kolkata are also getting ready to receive cruise ships. The sector will grow at a rate of 25% to 30% from now on and will create millions of jobs, he said.

‘New avenue of tourism’

Nalini Gupta, managing director, Lotus Aero Enterprises, representative of Costa Cruises in India, said cruise liners cater to multiple traveller segments with their diverse facilities and amenities.

“I am confident that this mode of holidaying will provide an exclusive way of travel to visitors seeking to discover new avenues of tourism,” she said.

Costa is the only international cruise liner in India to offer regular cruises of three to seven-night cruise itineraries from Mumbai to Kochi, Kochi to Maldives, Mumbai to Maldives and Maldives to Mumbai.