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Monday, 15 December, 2014, 11 : 45 AM [IST]

Opportunities and Challenges in Tourism in India - Cruise Tourism

The travel and tourism industry has emerged as one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors globally. The growth in the Indian travel and tourism industry is driven by a combination of rising income levels and changing lifestyles, development of diverse tourism offerings, and policy and regulatory support by the government authorities. Over the past year, this growth has reflected over all segments of tourism. TravelBiz Monitor speaks to industry experts about the top Opportunities and Challenges they currently see in individual segments of Inbound/Domestic Tourism, MICE Tourism, Outbound Tourism, Aviation, Hospitality and in the rapidly growing Online Travel Agents (OTAs) space. This is the second in the two-part series of Opportunities and Challenges in India tourism


Cruise Tourism
With so many entertainment options and exceptional holiday vacations, it is not surprising that the popularity of cruise holidays from India is constantly increasing. According to a study by the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India based on current trends and forecasts, it is estimated that by 2030-31, India may emerge with a market size of 1.2 million cruise tourists. Outbound cruising from India, which is increasing by nearly 20 per cent every year, is gaining momentum with an eclectic mix of Indian cuisine, halting at prime locations, and a range of entertainment options offered by renowned cruise lines. However, India has a long way to go due to lack of cruise terminals and sufficient infrastructure in place.


Opportunities
Yachting vacation
Rising upper middle-class
Evolving choices of the Indian traveller
Diverse product portfolio
Promotion through word-of-mouth

Challenges
Limited ultra-luxury options in India
Lack of awareness
Lack of promotion by travel agents
Quality infrastructure is missing
Lack of proper cruise terminals

sudesh_kishore_id.jpgSUDESH KISHORE
President, SeaDream Yacht Club, India &
Corporate Chef, SeaDream Yacht Club

The cruise industry in India, though currently at a nascent stage, is growing steadily. The yachting vacation experience is an unexplored domain, yet extremely attractive for the affluent Indian traveller who is showing great interest in exotic vacations. Given SeaDream’s ultra-luxury experience, the elite Indian from metros have accepted the experience and are open to experiencing SeaDream’s five-star hospitality service.

Currently, the ultra-luxury options in India are very limited. This is primarily due to lack of appropriate infrastructure and stringent security regulations that make it difficult for international cruise/yachts to come to Indian shores. However, rather than a challenge, we see this as an opportunity to create awareness and educate the target audience about SeaDream Yacht Club, and tell them how we are different from the other sea travel/holiday options that are available to Indians to explore exquisite location across the globe.

ratna_chadha_id.jpgRATNA CHADHA
Chief Executive, TIRUN Travel Marketing
(India Representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.)

Today, there are approximately 14 million outbound travellers from India and cruise travellers account for less than one per cent of this figure. This clearly shows the potential of the cruise market in the country. India has a burgeoning upper middle-class with rising aspirations that have enhanced financial capabilities, and with the representation of major cruise lines in India, there is no reason for the country to not emerge as a leading cruise seller.

With Royal Caribbean International positioning the Mariner of the Seas, the largest ship in Asia, in Singapore and a year-long deployment planned 2015 onwards, this is a great opportunity for the Indian traveller to experience what a true international cruise experience at an affordable cost is all about.

There are some myths associated with Cruise Tourism; some of them being that it is the prerogative of the rich, or that a cruise ship is constricting and one might get bored. Though mindsets are slowly changing now, with cruising becoming a ‘leisure choice’ for many, we need to continue to enlighten the traveller about cruising and educate them that on board a cruise ship, there are many activities for all ages. Travel agents too need to include the cruise option in their bouquet of standard offerings to their clients, as a cruise is easy to sell, a high-value product that generates good commission levels and has high customer satisfaction.

nishith_saxena_id.jpgNISHITH SAXENA
Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals

As Indian travellers are evolving, there are more and more refined choices being made when it comes to the cruising destination, as also with regard to the type of cabins and kind of ship one would like to sail on. This trend is more visible in metros where passengers have gone for at least one cruise and have liked the experience. Going forward, we are anticipating distinct patterns emerging for masses and for classes. Both these segments of passengers have their own peculiarities when it comes to deciding which cruise to go on. While cost plays a very important role in the first segment, it is the life-enrichment experiences that attract the second segment.

The issues pertaining to stunted growth of Cruise Tourism are multiple. On one hand there is lack of awareness among consumers, and on the other hand the travel agent community does not promote cruising as a viable vacation option. One needs to understand that cruising is a packaged product, which is why cruise companies are able to provide more comprehensive and complete services, including accommodation, and food and entertainment. Moreover, cruising is a relaxed form of vacation as compared to other land-based packaged holidays.

In the current scenario, you would find travel agencies fighting for an extremely small percentage of the airline commission, but they would not promote cruising, which could give them ten per cent and more commission.

tony_marwah_id.jpgTONY MARWAH
Chief Operating Officer,
Indian Travel Promotion Company Pvt Ltd
(India Representative of AmaWater Ways)

For customers seeking lifestyle vacations and who cherish exclusivity, river cruises in Europe present a great variety. Imagine waltzing down the Danube or the Rhine, walking down the vineyards, or exploring the heritage of Europe. River cruise holidays are all about panache. AmaWaterways brings this unique opportunity for us in Travel Representation Networking (TRN) Marketing, and for the outbound travel trade in particular, to differentiate the portfolio of offerings and create another revenue stream. It gives them an additional handle to retain customers.

River Cruise Tourism is still at a nascent stage in India. One reason for this is that there are virtually no great tour holidays created on rivers in India yet—quality infrastructure is missing. Another reason is that the travel trade has not been able to look actively beyond traditional ‘land tours’. As river cruise vacations are specialised vacation options, they need a separate passion for counselling and product training. TRN Marketing is attempting to overcome this obstacle by placing AmaWaterways’ products online at Via.com or Yatra, or promoting them through multi-city vacation distributors like Flightshop.

subhash_goyal_id.jpgSUBHASH GOYAL
Chairman, STIC Travel Group

STIC Travel Group represents Holland America Line, SeaBourn and Windstar Cruises—the three most prominent cruise brands in the world. The cruise bug has bitten the Indian outbound traveller. The segment is getting popular by word of mouth. Travellers also escape the burden of packing and unpacking. The potential of Domestic Cruises is also very high. We can increase the number by half a million if the government develops the much-needed infrastructure and helps spread awareness.

Our cruise lines look forward to coming to India more often and bring tourists in large numbers, but there is no proper cruise terminal in the country. Several cruise lines have to share ports with cargo terminals, which are not clean enough. IATO, along with FAITH, met Secretary Transport, Govt. of India recently where such issues were raised. If the facilities are developed, Cruise Tourism to and from India will grow significantly

 
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