By Nalini Gupta
India Budget 2020: Among all the different options for a vacation, cruising holidays has gained great popularity with the Indian traveller over the past few years, whether be it for families, corporate groups, solo travellers or even large weddings or celebrations onboard. According to reports by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the number of cruisers worldwide has increased by almost 67.5% over the last decade. The year 2020 looks to set a benchmark for the cruising industry, with almost 32 million passengers set to sail. While the Indian cruising numbers are at only about 2,25,000 and form only a small percentage of the global numbers, this figure is witnessing an increase of around 20-30% year-on-year and the opportunity going forward is massive.
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There are several initiatives that have been taken in last year's Union Budget for turning 17 iconic Indian destinations into worldwide tourist destinations. Successful implementation of such initiatives would not just generate revenue for the locals in the area, but would also boost foreign tourism, as there will be more sightseeing opportunities for inbound tourists and Indians to experience. This will also add to the to see/do list of foreigners coming into Indian ports through the various international cruise liners. Additionally, since India has one of the largest coastlines in the world, cruise holidays provide the best option for exploring these unexplored destinations, like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Vizag to name a few.
In the Budget of 2019-20, schemes such as Bharatmala, UDAN and Sagarmala had been introduced. The data from the shipping ministry reveals that the cruise operations enhance business prospects and, on an average, employment generation on a cruise ship. With India having the potential to provide 700 cruise ships per year, in contrast to 158 handled in 2017, the cruising sector can generate more than 2.5 lakh jobs for 10 lakh cruise passengers. There has also been a scheme that has been introduced by the government called the TRT, which stands for Tax Refund for Tourists. Under this initiative, the government encourages tourists to spend more in India and boost tourism.
Costa Cruises – Europe's leading cruise line which was a part of the biggest cruising Carnival Corporation in November 2019 – homeported in Mumbai for the 4th season with Costa Victoria. Costa Victoria has a guest capacity of nearly 2,400. Moreover, in December 2019, it introduced the first-ever LNG-fueled ship, Costa Smeralda, reducing its environmental footprints. While Costa Smeralda has been setting sail in Europe, this ship sets an example for many others to reduce their environmental impact.
After last year's budget, out of the many expectations from the Union Budget of 2020, one is that the government relaxes stringent policies and laws pertaining to the shipping industry, thereby making it easier for more foreign shipping companies to invest via foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. Moreover, the formation of a clear cruising policy would benefit the blue economy of the country. Lastly, we look forward to the allocation of funds in Budget 2020 for the development of ports and water cruise facilities, so that they can be at par with the international standards.
(The author is the Managing Director of Lotus Destinations, which is the GSA for Costa Cruises India. The views expressed in the article are personal.)