India’s Ministry of Shipping has announced an immediate reduction in port charges for the cruise industry ranging from 60% to 70% as part of efforts to attract cruise traffic back to country and support the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The move comes after the government last month announced that cruise ships would be welcome back to India’s primary cruise ports from October onwards, with Jalesh Cruises immediately announcing plans to return to service.
The move has been welcomed by the Indian Cruise Lines Association (INCLA), which said in a statement that the move lends support to building optimism that India’s cruise market will rebound quickly from the disruption wrought by the pandemic.
“The current upheaval caused by the pandemic has resulted in several challenges and has adversely affected tourism and the cruising sector,” said Jurgen Bailom, Chairman, INCLA and President & CEO of Jalesh Cruises.
“While we eagerly wait to begin sailing in November, the Shipping Ministry’s announcement to reduce berthing charges to promote tourism increases our optimism and confidence that our industry will get back on its feet in no time at all,” he added.
Bailom pointed out that no other cruise destination or cruise source market has implemented any measures of the same extent to support the cruise industry, which has been badly affected by the pandemic.
“The cruise industry appreciates the efforts, and is indeed grateful for this initiative, which no other country has implemented so far by such a margin,” he said. “This news comes as a breath of fresh air.”
In an apparent reference to Jalesh Cruises, he added that he expected to see demand for domestic cruises given the ongoing international travel restrictions.
“We are confident that the travel industry will bounce back, with a few adjustments in the post-COVID-19 world where global travel restrictions and changing consumer preference will provide the impetus to domestic tourism.”
Nalini Gupta, Vice President INCLA said the reduced port fees would make India a more competitive cruise destination as cruise lines prepare to return to service in the coming months.
“This will not only help make cruising more affordable for Indians but also make India look a lot more attractive to International cruise companies in terms of home-porting ships in India for itineraries covering Indian ports with neighbouring countries,” he said.
India saw rampant growth in its cruise industry through the last five years. Some 593 cruise port calls were recorded during the 2019/2020 cruise season compared to 128 in 2015/2016. That growth was led by the launch of Jalesh Cruises, and Angriya Cruises, the country’s two homegrown cruise lines, and Costa Cruises’ decision to homeport in Mumbai for cruises to the Maldives.
It is unclear whether Costa Cruises will be returning to India. It used to homeport Costa Victoria in Mumbai during the summer, but she was sold for scrap due to the impact of the pandemic and a replacement ship for Mumbai has not been announced.
With a massive coastline and unexplored territories, India’s potential for cruise tourism is enormous, with officials having previously indicated that they plan to encourage its growth in the same way as the cruise market in China.