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Cruise Tourism,an Emerging Superpower in India

Cruise Tourism,an Emerging Superpower in India

In India, international cruising as a
holiday concept began in the early
1990s, when TIRUN Travel Marketing
(then Discover the World Marketing)
started representing Royal Caribbean
Cruises Ltd. in the country in 1993.
A year later, Star Cruises set its eyes
on India, and started marketing their
ships through the PSA (Preferred Sales Agent)
network. However, realising the potential that
India offers for cruise tourism, Star Cruises set
up its first office in India in 1999 in Mumbai.
Star Cruises is a contemporary brand of Genting
Cruise Lines.

In 2006, Star Cruises homeported SuperStar
Libra in Mumbai for the October 2006 to March
2007 season. The ship sailed from Mumbai to
Lakshadweep and Mumbai to Goa with fourand
three-night itineraries, respectively. Also,
the ship offered one-night cruising on the high
seas during weekends from Mumbai. In the first
season of 2006-2007, nearly 40,000 passengers
cruised on these sailings, while the number
doubled to approximately 81,000 passengers
during the second season of 2007-2008. However,
it is believed that unfavourable government
policies forced Star Cruises to withdraw the ship
from the Indian waters in 2008.

Despite this, during a short span of time,
Star Cruises was able to provide a fair idea to
Indian travellers (especially in the gateway city
of Mumbai, the state of Maharashtra and metro
cities) about what a cruise travel entails. This led
Star Cruises to attract more Indians to undertake
cruise travel from countries like Singapore,
Malaysia, China, etc. In this process, Star Cruises
managed to create a strong brand image, and
at the same time provided a clear picture about
cruising to the tourists through a first-hand
experience in India.

The contribution of Star has been unprecedented
in the cruise segment and because of its
continuous engagement in the market, Indians
started looking at the possibility of opting for
cruising as a holiday option.

Focus on India
The importance of India as a source market for
cruise liners can be gauged from the fact that
Genting Cruise Lines’ new luxury brand, Dream
Cruises had Mumbai as a port of call during the
maiden voyage of Genting Dream in November
2016. The ship (Genting Dream) has been wellreceived
by Indian travellers, especially repeat
cruisers who have another ship from the Genting
portfolio to choose from.

Moreover, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings set up its India office in Mumbai in 2016 to tap the burgeoning Indian cruise market. Norwegian Star, one of the flagship vessels of Norwegian Cruise Line made ports of call on the Indian shores in March 2017 as part the brand’s voyages in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. On April 24, 2017, Seven Seas Voyager, the most luxurious ship of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings made a port of call in Mumbai.

Another entrant in the fray, Italian cruise liner Costa Cruises set its eyes n India and started operating a round trip cruise from Mumbai to Maldives via Sri Lanka from December 2016 to March 2017, which has received an overwhelming response, especially from honeymooners, considering its sailing months were the peak wedding season in India. For many travellers, a cruise holiday often starts after a flight trip. But now, with the introduction of Costa neoClassica, Indians have the opportunity to start their cruise journey from their doorstep in Mumbai, India’s largest metropolis. The ship has 654 cabins (with a capacity of 1,700 passengers), including sea
view cabins and suites with private balconies.

With encouraging response from India, Costa Cruises will start 3 and 4 nights sailing on Costa neoClassica from November this year. With this development, Indian travellers can now choose to cruise on 4-night itinerary from Mumbai to Kochi (via Mangalore) or 3-night itinerary from Kochi to Maldives. “People in this country were hungry for such a travel product. I am sure that travellers from smaller cities will also opt for this sailing. It is no more a dream but reality for them,� says Nalini Gupta, MD, Lotus Destinations (GSA of Costa Cruises in India). This is in addition to the 7 nights sailing from Mumbai-Maldives which Costa introduced last year.

According to Naresh Rawal, VP – Sales, Genting Cruise Lines, “We have been witnessing an increase in number of Indian guests on Star Cruises from Tier-II and III cities along with B towns, longer itineraries to exotic destinations and choosing higher category cabins are the tending favourites for cruise travellers. The excitement continues as Star Cruises two new builds lined for 2020 and 2021. After a successful deployment of Dream Cruises first vessel
Genting Dream Ex Mumbai on October 29, 2016,
we are gearing up to launch their second vessel
World Dream (launching late 2017) which shall
be home ported in Asia and would be delivering
the highest level of guest service and spacious
comfort in the region. In this year both the new
mega ships focus will be to cater to the highend
guests each servicing with a 2,000-crew for
fewer than 3,400 passengers and the 46% space
ratio with showcasing luxury experience and real
Asian heart-felt services.�

As per the Cruise Industry Outlook 2017 by
Cruise Lines International Association released in
December 2016, from 2017 to 2026, 97 new ocean
ships are on order, which will add new capacity
of 230,788. This is a combined total investment
of more than USD 6.8 billion. “In the last few
years, cruising has generated unprecedented
interest among Indian travellers. Therefore, we
are witnessing a good season this year and will
aggressively look at showcasing our products.
Outbound cruise tourism has emerged as the
fastest growing holiday segment in the past five
years and this is a result of the growing disposable
income, youth travel and aggressive marketing
and sales activities across India by cruise liners.
Indians are looking for newer experiences and a
cruise holiday is a perfect combination of a land,
ocean and air travel which is enticing. The sheer
number of ships on order for ocean and river
cruises shows the tremendous pace at which
the segment is growing globally as well as in
India,� says Manoj Singh, Country Head – India,
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Cruise Tourism in India has had its ups and
downs in all these years, but if looked at different
segments, one can find that only the outbound
tourism has done well on a sustainable basis.
A substantial growth in outbound tourism has
been seen in last 10 years, says Nishith Saxena,
Founder Director, Cruise Professionals. “With
the deployment of new technologies and the
construction of new ships, the cruise industry
has been able to meet the expectations of the
travellers so far, resulting in this stable growth
and strong economic impact around the world.
And with the government finally focusing on
cruise industry as a serious business, and the
private port operators planning to make the
necessary arrangements to be done to cater the
passengers, the future of cruise tourism seems
bright,� he adds.

India’s Cruise Tourism Potential
As per the Bureau of Immigration, Government
of India, 20.38 million Indians travelled abroad
in 2015, which is an annual growth of 11.1%.
However, the number of cruise passengers
from India during 2015 is just about 120,000-
125,000, which does not even amount to 1% of
the total outbound. This means cruise tourism in
India is virtually an untapped segment and has
the potential to grow many folds, year-on-year.
According to Kishan Biyani, MD, Ark Travels,
“Larger ships and varied itineraries is what the
Indian customer is looking for and that is what is
being offered in 2017 in the South Asian region.
MICE is already showing a growth of 10% for
the year. The traveller trends for Diwali are also
looking positive.�

Indian travellers have arrived at a point where
they distinguish between cruise as an attraction
and cruising as a complete vacation, believes
says Dipti Adhia, Director, Discover the World –
India. “There are now many more players in the
fray, but the ones to succeed, will be those who
can offer the product and service which is out of
the box. India has just began its journey as an
emerging market for International cruising,� she
adds.

Time for Domestic Cruising
Since the cruise segment in India is still at a
very nascent stage, the opportunity lies in
developing the domestic ocean cruising market. A significant number of travellers in India are still unaware of how a cruise holiday can be a great option of exploring new destinations as well as indulging in onboard facilities on a single trip. It is advisable to launch a contemporary ship sailing in the domestic waters. This would allow passengers from India get a first-hand experience on
their home turf since the product would be effectively cheaper than its international counterparts. As a majority of the population in India is still not familiar about cruising, it is difficult to develop and sustain a product that is targeted at only a niche premium segment. At this juncture, it is imperative that a ship sailing in Indian waters is launched, which would be a novelty. It should be targeted at
a larger audience to not only popularise the segment and product at large, but also elevate India’s tourism offering.

Moreover, a domestic cruise ship docking and making ports of call in the country would also draw the interest of and promotional investment from the state tourism boards in showcasing the best of what their coast can offer in terms of sightseeing and accommodations, besides local culture and cuisine. Hence, a mass product is preferable at this stage.

However, there also exists a case for the launch of two distinct products for the Indian market, which may be distinguished as a mass product and a class product. Additionally, to make cruise tourism a vibrant segment, the foremost step is education of the travel agents and tour operators, since bookings in India are largely driven through them. Another crucial area that ne to be accorded adequate focus is the emerging Tier-II and III cities, which are the hidden gems because those are the markets where the majority of bookings will be generated from in the future. Since Indians are price conscious, while devising a cruise package, the cost-aspect should be given a detailed consideration.

disha.shah@saffronsynergies.in

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