The Indian government is aiming at attracting five million cruise tourists to the country by 2040. India’s tourism sector records an annual growth of 15.6 percent, as compared to the global average of 5 percent, Union Minister of State for Tourism KJ Alphons said on July 28 during the inauguration of a new international cruise terminal at the Ernakulam Wharf of Cochin Port in Kerala.
“Visitors to India, which has a history dating back to 5,000 years, leave with a new outlook. The Center will provide all help to enable more cruise ships to call at the Kochi Port,” Alphons said at the occasion, the Hindu reported.
“Last year, 2.6 crore people undertook cruise tourism but only 1.6 lakh arrived in India. We need to increase the number of ships that berth here. Our consultants have informed us that by 2040 around five million tourists will visit India via cruise tourism alone, but I am sure that we can do better that,” he was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
The government has granted Rs 53 crore to the Cochin Port Trust and Rs 106 crore for boosting cruise tourism in India, Alphons added. The new terminal at Cochin, spread over 2,253 sq.m, would be equipped to handle up to 5,000 tourists. The facility would be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 25.72 crore, of which Rs 21.41 crore has been provided by the Union Ministry of Tourism.
The terminal will feature tourist facilities such as a passenger lounge, crew lounge, 30 immigration counters, eight customs clearance counters, seven security check counters, tourist information counter, duty-free shops, bank services, foreign exchange counter, gaming zone, and cafeteria. The construction of the new terminal is expected to be completed by February 2020.
The upcoming terminal will be the second one in Kochi, which gets around 40 cruise liners every year, according to the Hindu.
A total of 162,660 cruise passengers visited India at six ports — Mumbai, Chennai, Cochin, Kolkata, New Mangalore and Mormugao — during 2017-18, Alphons said in the Lok Sabha on July 30. During the same period, 139 cruise ships visited India at these ports, the minister added.
The government has also set up immigration counters at five major Indian ports visited by cruise ships. The facility of E-visa has been extended to sea ports in Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai. Cruise tourists arriving with E-visa have also been exempted from the requirement of biometric enrollment till 2020 to facilitate expeditious immigration clearance, Alphons said in a written reply in the parliament.