In India, cruises are being promoted and sold for the last two decades by a few focused and some transient agents and representatives. As a result, most of the travel agents and seasoned travellers today are familiar with cruising as a market segment and not a holiday option. Nishith Saxena, Director, Cruise Professionals is of the opinion that in India the passenger opting for cruise as a holiday option has not reached even 10 per cent of the forecasted potential. “Currently, there are more than 15 ocean cruise liners and river cruise companies with significant presence in the country offering diverse destinations and attractive offers from time to time to lure the Indian traveller. We hope that, in the near future, India emerges as a significant source market for cruises world over,” Saxena said.
Saxena attributed the slow growth to several factors but highlighted three most important factors: Lack of awareness among the consumers, lack of cruising option closer to home and limited interest amongst travel agents when it comes to promoting wider destination range. “Apart from the three most common and main factors the most recent challenges we have faced have been dramatic depreciation of rupee and worldwide strike by the Canadian High Commission,” he opined.
According to Saxena, while the US$ cost of the product is very enticing, the high exchange rate and new visa norms is causing many passengers to have a relook at their plans. “Passengers planning to visit cruising destinations like Alaska, Canada and New England have been affected due to no visas being granted since early July 2013. Also the constant tussle with passengers wanting to book through their friends and relatives overseas because of the inability of their local agent to service their requirement is another challenge which shall be negated once the local travel agents are more confident in servicing passenger’s cruise booking requirements.”
Elaborating more on their marketing and promotional strategy, he opined, “We have invested a substantial amount of money over the years as we view India as a developing source market. Various sales and marketing activities are undertaken periodically to develop and nurture the market, targeting cruises as an alternate vacation option.” He added that the marketing activities keep evolving each year based on new trends and market requirements.
Speaking on their product offering, Saxena revealed, “Cruises always have something for everyone. For elderly Indian travellers, whether they love activity or crave for tranquility, our cruise lines offer all the possibilities. Passengers can opt for shore excursions to explore a port of call or just relax by the pool. Our Signature Shows, lounge performers, movies and casinos are just some of the entertainment our passengers enjoy.”
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