NEW DELHI: Cruises, once considered the preserve of the rich and the famous, are gaining in popularity with Indians and the business is all set to expand in the country.
Service providers said growth in demand for cruise tourism from Indian travellers over the past year has been significant and they expect a further jump in bookings this year. While the business consists largely of Indians sailing overseas, the government plans to promote cruises by developing domestic sailing hubs.
Tirun Travel Marketing, the exclusive India representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises, witnessed a 60% growth in business for the JanuaryApril period from a year earlier.
For Cox & Kings, cruise vacation bookings increased by about 20%, while short river cruises in Europe grew 10% this year. The cruise business for FCM Travel Solutions expanded 15% this year. FCM plans to add expedition cruises and river cruises to its portfolio this year and has started receiving bookings for next summer.
“The most popular cruise vacations are through Star Cruises and Costa Cruises in Asia,“ said Karan Anand, head, relationships, at Cox & Kings.“People also travel to the Mediterranean and board the Royal Caribbean Cruises or the Norwegian Cruise liners.Realising the increase in demand for cruises among Indian travellers, in ternational cruise liners have started providing vegetarian options on board their ships.“
Cruise service providers said family groups aside, millennials and dual-income-no-kid couples have also been opting for cruises.
“Local cruising (cruise holidays that cover India) has been gaining strong momentum from our domestic audience, more so with Costa Cruises having introduced sailings from Mumbai,“ said Rajeev Kale, president and country head for leisure travel at Thomas Cook. “This year, our top favourites from a cruise perspective have included cruises from Singapore, Mumbai-Maldives, Barcelona, Northern Europe & USA.“ The cost of an overseas cruise holiday ranges from Rs 23,000 to Rs 1 lakh per person, depending on to the destination and the duration, and excluding air fares.
Service providers said a cruise tourism policy will be a game-changer for the cruise tourism market. In June this year, the government said it is targeting a 10-fold increase in cruise liner traffic to India to 700 vessels a year.
“If we open up our own ports, it will have a multiplier effect on the economy and will enable Indians to experience cruising locally, which is affordable luxury,“ said Ratna Chadha, chief executive officer of Tirun and a member of the task force set up by the government for cruise tourism.
Cruise liners are wooing younger travellers with activities such as casinos, top notch food outlets, indoor golf & better entertainment, said Daniel D’Souza, head sales, India and NRI markets, for SOTC Travel.
“Indians are increasingly open to trying newer itineraries for destinations such as Alaska, Scandinavia and South America. There is an encouraging growth in demand for cruises compared to previous years,“ he added.