Traditionally, cruising was looked upon as a segment which is expensive and is for a certain age group in India. This perception is gradually fading in India and now cruise liners have started witnessing the potential of this market. In 2017, major cruise liners have witnessed significant growth from India market. Also luxury cruising is one segment which has started picking up.
Speaking about the growth in 2017, Kunal Sampat, General Manager-India, MSC Cruises said, “Indian travellers have started understanding that cruising is not about luxury and the same is about an experience. The myth of cruise holidays being expensive is slowly diminishing and we are happy to see travellers booking their cruise holidays in advance over previous years for 2018. 2017 has been a path-breaking year for MSC Cruises with a passenger growth of more than 30 per cent over 2016.”
Echoing similar opinion Ratna Chadha, CEO, TIRUN Travel Marketing added, “Riding on the growing popularity of cruise holidays in India, TIRUN has achieved an impressive 60 per cent growth as compared to last year. Going forward, we look forward to 25 to 30 per cent year on year growth. This will be fuelled by relevant deployment closer to home and/or from home (India).”
Last year there was a lot of development in the Indian cruising story as the Ministry of Shipping and the Ministry of Tourism have brought out many new policies to growth this segment.
Nishith Saxena, Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals said, “The period from 2004 – 2014 was not encouraging for cruise tourism as such but the way this government is resolving various issues pertaining to Cruise Tourism, whether it is domestic or international, we do hope that Indian ports become host & home to not just one or two but many cruise lines in the years to come. Indian cruise tourism story is reaching the ears of all international players and it would not be long before we have more international players who would start taking interest in Indian shores.”
Chadha added, “Government is diligently working on improving the ports and infrastructure and is serious to make cruise tourism a success in India. Major ports are set to cut berthing charges for cruise ships and there will be e-landing and e-visa facilities for the tourists. This year, the country witnessed 60,000 cruise tourists through 55 ships and there is a potential to increase it to 30 lakh cruise tourists in the coming years. As we all know that the cruise business is cyclical, we hope for promising years ahead.”
Earlier Indian cruisers used to choose their destinations which are close to India for cruising. Destinations like Singapore, Hong Kong were very popular amongst Indians. Now the travellers are looking beyond these destinations and are also looking at long haul options.
Speaking about the new popular destinations amongst Indians Sampat said, “Our West Mediterranean & East Mediterranean sailings covering Italy, Spain, France & Italy, Greece, Croatia respectively have always been quite popular amongst Indian travellers. We do anticipate good growth for North Europe in 2018 and with introduction of our new ship, MSC Seaside, being deployed in the Caribbean; we foresee a good demand for the same as well in 2018.”
Saxena added, “Singapore & Alaska are the ever popular short haul and long haul cruising destinations among Indian travellers. But the buying behaviour of passengers for both these destinations depicts a totally different mind-set w.r.t early booking and last minute buying behaviours.”
Also, matured cruise travellers or repeat clients are now upgrading themselves and looking for more luxury products.
Saxena said, “We feel that Indian passengers have understood luxury much before their counterparts in other countries. In fact, Indians have been using luxury products for a longer time but the definition of luxury in India has always been a little distorted and is viewed/ described by people who themselves have had little or no exposure to luxury. Our understanding is that luxury & class have a very thin line to differentiate but there is a significant amount of Indian passengers who understand this and enjoy good things in life.”