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Can India's cruise tourism sail through the storm?

Cruise tourism and coastal tourism seem to be the two new buzzwords in Indian tourism sector. Cruise tourism is a form of travelling for leisure purposes, involving an all-inclusive holiday on a cruise ship of at least 48 hours, according to a specific itinerary in which the cruise ship calls at several ports or cities.

Can India’s cruise tourism sail through the storm?
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Can India’s cruise tourism sail through the storm?

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Cruise tourism and coastal tourism seem to be the two new buzzwords in Indian tourism sector. Cruise tourism is a form of travelling for leisure purposes, involving an all-inclusive holiday on a cruise ship of at least 48 hours, according to a specific itinerary in which the cruise ship calls at several ports or cities. Cruise tourism is seen as a potential growth enabler for the tourism industry as a whole. The Cruise Shipping Policy of the Ministry of Shipping had first been approved by the union government on June 26, 2008. The objective of the policy was to make India as an attractive cruise tourism destination with the state-of-the-art infrastructural and other facilities at various parts in the country; to attract the right segment of the foreign tourists to cruise shipping in India; to popularize cruise shipping with Indian tourists. Almost 14 years down the road, the current dispensation has also realized that cruise tourism is one of the most vibrant and fast-growing sectors of the leisure and travel industry. The promotion of coastal tourism through beach tourism, lighthouse tourism, and cruise tourism will help communities such as fishing communities to find other livelihood opportunities and supplement their income. India with its vast and beautiful coastline, virgin forests and undisturbed idyllic islands, rich historical and cultural heritage, can be a fabulous tourist destination for cruise tourists.

Through the Central Financial Assistance Scheme, the Union Ministry of Tourism has already been supporting tourism infrastructure by developing ports and cruise terminals, lighthouses and river cruise circuits and purchasing ferries. The present government is also working towards developing dedicated terminals for cruise passengers and cruise vessels. Under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, the Union Ministry of Tourism has sanctioned ten projects under coastal thematic circuits worth Rs648.80 crore across various states / Union Territories. The government has also sanctioned Rs228.61 crore for various projects on developing cruise terminals and related infrastructure at major ports under the ''Assistance to Central Agencies for Tourism Infrastructure Development'' scheme. These include the development of cruise terminals, lighthouses, and other tourist infrastructure in Goa, Mumbai, and Visakhapatnam.

The Modi 2.0 government is now working towards formulating the comprehensive national tourism policy, preparing a proper roadmap for development of river tourism in India and creating an action plan for the river cruising in a mission mode. India's perennial rivers will offer a historical experience and state governments are developing inland waterways tourism policies to cater to domestic tourists and international travellers. It is pertinent to mention here that the Centre has also brought about changes in the Indian vessel act 2021 to anchor a unified system of survey, certification of the vessels and the personnel. There will also be a unified licensing system for the entire country and the vessels will not be required to take licenses from each and every state. It will be interesting to see if Indian tourism can cruise through the rough weather and come out of the challenging times.

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