Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways, Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation chaired an interactive session of various stakeholders of the travel and tourism trade in Mumbai last week, to formulate an action plan for realizing the full potential of Cruise Tourism in the country. Union Minister of State for Tourism K.J.Alphonswas also present at the session. Officials of Mumbai Port Trust, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation and Tourism Department of Maharashtra Government held detailed deliberations with representatives from the tourism and travel industry. The Action Plan that has emerged from these deliberations focusses on developing identified sites as attractive tourist destinations and generating awareness about them both within the country and abroad; ensuring cleanliness and operational efficiency.
As Mumbai would be the hub of Cruise Tourism in the country, it was decided in the meeting that areas like Sassoon Dock and Sewree Fort in the city, and nearby areas like KanhojiAngre Island, Mandwa, Alibaug and Vijaydurg, would be developed as attractive tourist destinations.
In order to attract tourists, water sports activities are being planned around the Marine Drive area . Events like Ferrari Formula 1 and Grand Prix are also on the anvil. Mandwa is to be developed as a Wellness Destinations with facilities for activities like Yoga and Meditation to be developed in land belonging to Mumbai Port. Restuarants and other tourist attractions will be developed in the Mumbai Port area in and around the DCT. The State Tourism Department will arrange reception activities like cultural shows for cruise arrivals.
The Action Plan lays a lot of emphasis on publicizing the tourist destinations within the country and abroad through regular interactive sessions with all stakeholders. In case of Mumbai, this would involve Mumbai Port Trust’s participation in Overseas Travel Mart to showcase its tourism projects. Bollywood will be allowed to shoot in the ICT/DCT/ Water Front of Mumbai Port. Travel agencies will publicize Mumbai-Goa cruise and the Floating Restaurant at Gateway of India and GirgaumChowpatty as tourist attractions for people of Mumbai and outside. Mumbai will also be highlighted among foreigners as an attractive wedding destination. Tourist Information Stands will be set up to provide information to tourists about the various attractions and amenities at the destination. The staff providing information should be professional, have good knowledge about the destination, be proficient in English and other languages. Training will be organized for interpreters to handle foreign tourists.
Drawing attention to the need for cleanliness and operational efficiency, the Action Plan says that cleanliness of tourist areas, roadways, sidewalks, venues and beaches has to be ensured. SOPs need to be developed allowing operational efficiency, revenue options and diminished bureaucracy.
Government of India has taken several steps to promote Cruise Tourism in the country. These include:
- Certainty of berth to cruise ships.
- Ousting charges have been removed – this has reduced overall cost
- Discount of 42-66 % allowed in Port Charges
- Simplified SOPs issued for processes to be observed by multiple agencies like port authorities, Customs, Immigration, Security, State Govt, Ship Agents, Tour Operators etc
- E-Landing card system is ready for ease of travelling among Indian ports
- E- visa introduced for online and on arrival visa facilities
- Cabotage waived for foreign cruise vessels on Indian shores enabling passengers to board the vessel at Indian Ports for voyage along Indian shores.
- Cruise terminals upgraded with more passenger amenities
- New cruise terminals to be constructed
- Reputed consultant appointed by Shipping Ministry to draw up a road map for Cruise Tourism in India. They have projected that the number of tourists is likely to go up to 4.5 million by 2042-43.