‘India needs to improve cruise tourism infrastructure’

MUMBAI // Cruise operators have criticised India’s poor infrastructure, which they say desperately needs developing to allow growth of a potentially highly lucrative national industry.

“India urgently needs to improve on its cruise port and cruise tourism infrastructure for a more enhanced experience for cruise guests and to better accommodate ships, especially the larger ones,” says Ratna Chadha, the chief executive of Tirun Travel Marketing, the exclusive India representative for Royal Caribbean Cruises.

India’s BJP-led government, which came to power in May last year, has identified tourism as a key segment that it wants to develop to help boost the country’s economic growth.

“There is no particular policy regulating cruise tourism in India,” says Ms Chadha. “The infrastructure of the ports in India does leave a lot to be desired. We have a coastline of 7,000 kilometres that can be developed as a base for luxury cruise ships. Our ports are mostly being used for freight forwarding and not for tourism. There is no uniformity between the ports.”

Iqbal Mulla, the president of the Global Tourism Council in Mumbai, says that berthing fees and deficient infrastructure were having a negative effect on the cruise sector in India.

Royal Caribbean brings in thousands of international tourists, largely Europeans, to India each year via its cruises.

The state of Goa, on the western coast, known for its pleasant beaches, has plans to build a new cruise terminal, with the state authorities having outlined plans to improve infrastructure to boost its tourism industry, one of the biggest contributors to the local economy, and create more jobs.

It attracted 25 cruise ships last year, according to Goa’s tourism board.

“Things are improving gradually [in India] and we are certain that this challenge can be overcome with modernisation, better berthing facilities and improved logistical support,” says Ms Chadha. “These steps are imperative for developing the country’s cruise industry.”

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