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Tuesday, 15 January, 2019, 12 : 00 PM [IST]

Maharashtra keen to bring Jaigarh, Vijaydurg & Kalra ports on domestic cruising map

With the Mumbai Port gaining currency for ship calls by many international cruise lines and the recent launch of domestic brands by two Indian companies with Mumbai as the homeport, the Maharashtra government is mulling new opportunities for cruise tourism along its coast. Plans are afoot to promote at least three lesser-known ports on the 720 km state coastline to give a fillip to the domestic cruising sector, and bring these destinations on the tourism map of the country.

Informing this in a conversation on the sidelines of a recent event, Ashish Kumar Singh, Principal Secretary Ports & Transport, Home Department, Government of Maharashtra, said that destinations like Jaigarh, Vijaydurg and Karla hold immense potential for cruise tourism. “The 720-km-long coast line of Maharashtra is large enough to engage travellers for longer duration to undertake a cruise holiday. There is tremendous opportunity for cruise operators to call on ports of Jaigarh, Vijaydurg and Karla,” Singh said.

According to Singh, all the three ports have a sizeable draft for cruise ships to dock, and are unexplored tourist destinations. “The next step would be to convince cruise operators having Mumbai as their homeport and who intend to pick up a lot of domestic travellers to be able to market these destinations as exotic choices to travel.”

Replying to a specific question on efforts to attract international cruise lines to call on these three ports, Singh said, “It is a very difficult to get an international cruise line to make ship calls on an unknown port. Therefore, to promote these ports, the target should be domestic travellers. We have to start from domestic players to build the cruising market. Once there is enough traction and awareness, automatically international tourists will start visiting these destinations as they are equally exotic.”

He said that the Indian domestic market is unexposed to world-class cruise tourism experiences so far. “Moreover, domestic tourists in India don’t have a cruise experience since the sector was non-existent. However, a beginning

has been made and a new market has been created. Destination building is a time-consuming process and so is creating an alternate method of tourist transport. Therefore, for cruise tourism to pick up pace will take some time,” he pointed out. He cited the example of air charters which were introduced in Kerala in the early 1990s, and is now a popular mode of tourist transport.

According to Singh, besides infrastructure, destination marketing is the most essential step for cruise tourism to succeed. “The experience that a cruise ship offers is all-inclusive. Once the ship and the port are in place, the number of tourists is bound to improve. Every domestic destination has to be branded, marketed and positioned well within India first.” He believes that if the ongoing activities are an indication, the next 3-4 years will witness cruise tourism emerging as one of the most talked about tourism sectors in India.
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