Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], May 15 (ANI): Indian cruise market has the potential to grow 10- fold over the next decade, said Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal on Saturday.

The Minister on Saturday inaugurated the first Incredible India International Cruise Conference 2022 in Mumbai.

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Speaking at the occasion, Sonowal said, "Indian cruise market has the potential to grow 10 folds over the next decade, driven by rising demand and disposable incomes. The government of India realizes this potential and is determined to position India as a global cruise hub with state-of-art infrastructure for both ocean and river cruises."

Stating that India is a magnificent cruise destination, the Minister said several attractions of India along its 7,500 km long coastline and vast river systems are yet to be unveiled to the world. He said the global players have evinced a keen interest in promoting cruise tourism in India, and with the development of the right infrastructure and adoption of modern technology, India will certainly become one of the top tourism destinations in the world.

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Sonowal stated that the Government has set up a Task Force headed by the Secretary, Tourism and Secretary, Shipping for the development of cruise tourism. The Minister announced the setting up of a high-level Advisory Committee, comprising national and international experts, to help the Task Force in creating an enabling eco-system for the development of cruise tourism in the country.

"Transformation is possible through transportation and for that, we need to leverage technology," he said.

Elaborating the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Minister of State, Shripad Naik said, "Four theme-based coastal destination circuits such as Gujarat Pilgrimage tours, West Coast - Cultural and scenic tours, South Coast - Ayurvedic wellness tours and East Coast - Heritage tourism have been developed to activate cruise demand. Lighthouse and Island development is also being undertaken to attract Coastal tourists."

He further said river cruise or inland cruise is another potential component of cruise tourism that could be explored.

India aims to increase cruise passenger traffic from 0.4 million at present to 4 million. The economic potential of Cruise tourism is expected to go up from USD 110 mn to USD 5.5 bn in the years to come. In order to boost the cruise tourism industry in the country, the Centre has taken several initiatives including infrastructure upgradation, rationalisation of port fees, removing ousting charges, granting priority berthing to cruise ships, providing e-visa facilities etc, said the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

Upgradation and modernisation are being carried out at seven major ports in the country including the flagship New International Cruise terminal coming up in Mumbai with a total cost of about Rs 495 crores. The iconic sea cruise terminal coming up at BPX-Indira Dock is expected to be commissioned by July 2024. The terminal will have a capacity of handling 200 ships and 1 million passengers per annum. Similar infrastructure upgradation is taking place in Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata.

The first Incredible India International Cruise Conference has been organized by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways. Strategies for developing India as a cruise hub, policy initiatives and port infrastructure, the potential of river cruise tourism, and the role of technology in the post-pandemic world are some of the key issues being deliberated at the two-day event.

More than 300 delegates representing stakeholders including international and Indian cruise line operators, investors, industry experts and consultants, senior officials of centre and state governments, ports, maritime boards and tourism boards are attending the conference. (ANI)

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