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Friday, 16 June, 2017, 15 : 22 PM [IST]

Not a Herculean task

Making the sea work for development and benefit of the people is not such a Herculean task if cruising gets the fillip it deserves.
Despite such a huge coastline, the modern Indian traveller’s romance with the sea has been quite limited. Not only the absence of beaches that attract locals who might wade in to the waters, there needs to be more national enthusiasm for sea-side adventures.

Many owe this lack of interest to the lack of local cruise ships. That in turn is due to lack of proper port facilities. Now when the government sought opinion from experts across the world on this issue, reports suggest they have recommended five probable international cruise circuits including India-Dubai, Cochin-Colombo-Male-Seychelles, and India-Malaysia. This is supposed to give the much needed nudge for cruise tourism. The exact circuits to be developed will be known in a couple of weeks.

World cruise market trends indicate a qualitative as well as quantitative growth. It is turning into a significant ‘niche’ market that is making the country’s tourism strategists sit up and take notice. Better late than never, its potential as job creating activity and tourism promotion is now being realised.

Last year a lakh and a quarter thousand cruise passengers visited the country which is not even half a per cent of the world’s cruise market. Mumbai, Kochi, Goa and Chennai are reported to be the major ports of call for cruise ships.

There is a buzz that there are serious plans to promote waterways as means of transport within the country, especially in the Ganga belt. As it is, domestic operators offer river cruises on National Waterways 1 & 2 on the Brahmaputra and Ganga, besides Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshwadeep. However, this does not reach any levels of luxury cruises. The attempt to allow foreign flag vessels carrying passengers to call at Indian ports without obtaining license from director general (shipping) till February 2024 and offering e-visas at five ports is a clear indication the authorities are shrugging off the slumber.

What also needs be done is inculcating a sentiment in the coast line states of accepting the sea as a resource for tourism and not just fish, or possibly oil.

Cleaning the coastline is also an issue. If the Blue Flag is a tough standard to implement right away, how about creating a more do-able though basic standard for the coastline and beaches in India?

The fact that an 80 plus resident thought of clearing a beach in Mumbai and hundreds if not thousands followed him, might not be a direct straw in that wind but it is an indication that ideas that were not popular earlier are catching on fast.

It’s quite a distance from clean beaches to cruise tourism but thinking about the sea is the basic premise in both- whether for health, environment or leisure.

Anurag Yadav
Industry Expert

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.
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