In a historic moment, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and AYUSH, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, flagged off the maiden voyage of Costa Serena, India’s first International Cruise Liner from Mumbai. This monumental event marks the initiation of a transformative phase in India’s cruising and tourism industry, driven by the visionary “Dekho Apna Desh” initiative of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
Government Initiatives: A Catalyst for Growth
Under the leadership of the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways (MoPSW), the Indian government has actively promoted cruise tourism. Several strategic initiatives have been implemented to revitalize the cruise sector:
- Enhanced Infrastructure: Development of modern cruise terminals with enhanced passenger facilities.
- Financial Incentives: Conditional IGST exemption for foreign cruise operators, reducing financial burdens.
- Simplified Procedures: Uniform SOPs for Customs, Immigrations, CISF, and Ports, ensuring streamlined operations.
- Promotional Measures: Removal of Ousting charges, concessional rates, and volume discounts for cruise ships.
- Global Engagement: Waiver of cabotage for foreign cruise vessels, attracting international players to Indian waters.
Remarkable Growth Trajectory
Due to these initiatives, there has been a substantial growth in cruise tourism:
- Rapid Expansion: Cruise ship calls increased by 223%, and passengers surged by 461% from 2013-14 to 2022-23.
- River Cruise Boom: River cruise tourism witnessed a 180% rise in operations, enhancing the overall tourism landscape.
Future Prospects: Charting the Course Ahead
- Sagarmala Programme: Active consideration of cruise tourism and lighthouse tourism projects, promoting maritime states’ tourism.
- Maritime India Vision 2030: Aiming to establish India as the premier cruise hub in the Asia Pacific region.
- Infrastructure Development: State-of-the-art cruise terminals to be established across the country.
- Procedural Standardization: Implementation of standardized procedures and introduction of e-visa facilities.
- Ambitious Targets: Target of 18 lakh cruise passengers by 2030, compared to the current 4.72 lakhs.
- Maritime Amritkaal Vision 2047: Envisioning 25 operational cruise terminals and an estimated annual passenger count of 5 million by 2047.
- Cruise Tourism Policy: Planning to launch a comprehensive policy aligning with international standards, addressing critical aspects such as GST, taxation, and customs duties.