Prime Minister 8.com/topics/narendra-modi/">Narendra Modi will launch the world’s longest river cruise, MV Ganga Vilas, and inaugurate Tent City in Varanasi via video conferencing on Friday. During the event, he will also inaugurate and lay the groundwork for several other inland waterways projects worth more than Rs 1000 crore.
A Cruise Into the Cruise
In 50 days, the luxury cruise with foreign tourists will cover approximately 3,200 km of 27 river systems in India, including the Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly, Brahmaputra, and West Coast Canal.
“This will be a unique cruise in the world and a reflection of growing cruise tourism in India. I request that the people of West Bengal take advantage of this,” Modi earlier said. He also stated that the cruise’s inaugural voyage will take place on January 13.
The cruise will visit 50 major tourist destinations, including heritage sites such as Varanasi’s famous Ganga Aarti and sanctuaries such as Kaziranga National Park and the Sundarbans Delta. In Bangladesh, the cruise will travel approximately 1,100 kilometres.
The cruise operated by a private player will be a regular feature, a senior official of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), the agency responsible for National Waterways (NWs) told the Times of India.
“Because of the increased focus of the government on development and maintenance of inland waterways, we have taken up several projects to increase the depth, set up necessary navigation facilities and jetties for successful operation of both passenger and cargo vessels,” the official told the Times of India.
The report quoted officials as saying that the development of the India-Bangladesh Protocol route was critical in the planning of the cruise service.
“Our civilisation developed along the rivers, so tourists taking river cruises will have a better experience and understanding of our culture and heritage,” an IWAI official explained.
What is Tent City?
Tent City has been conceptualised on the banks of River Ganga to tap the potential of tourism in the region. The project has been developed opposite to city ghats which will provide accommodation facilities and cater to the increased tourists influx in Varanasi, especially since the inauguration of Kashi Vishwanath Dham.
It has been developed by Varanasi Development Authority in PPP mode. The tourists will reach the Tent City by boats from different Ghats situated in the vicinity. The tent city will be operational from October to June every year and will be dismantled for three months due to rise in river water level in the rainy season.
Why is the Government Concentrating on Cruises
Shipping and waterways minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently stated that the development of coastal and river shipping, including cruise services, is one of the government’s top priorities.
The Prime Minister stated that the Centre has taken on the task of developing 100 national waterways, with the goal of seeing world-class cruise ships operating on these waterways in addition to cargo movement.
“In ancient times, waterways were extensively used for trade and tourism. That’s why several towns sprang up along river banks, and there was industrial development,” he explained.
India aims to increase cruise passenger traffic from 0.4 million to 4 million by 2020. The economic potential of cruise tourism is expected to rise from $110 million to $5.5 billion in the coming years, the government had said in May.
The government of India has taken several initiatives to boost the country’s cruise tourism industry, including infrastructure upgrades, rationalisation of port fees, removal of ousting charges, priority berthing for cruise ships, and the provision of e-visa facilities, it said.
What Measures are being Taken?
The May report said that seven major ports in the country are being upgraded and modernised, including the flagship New International Cruise Terminal in Mumbai, which will cost approximately Rs 495 crores. The iconic sea cruise terminal being built at BPX-Indira Dock is set to open in July 2024. The terminal will be able to handle 200 ships and 1 million passengers per year. Similar infrastructure improvements are underway in Goa, New Mangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, and Kolkata.
‘Four theme based coastal destination circuits such as Gujarat Pilgrimage tours, West Coast – Cultural and scenic tours, South Coast – Ayurvedic wellness tours, and East Coast – Heritage tourism have been developed to activate cruise demand,’ Minister of State, Shripad Naik had said. ‘Lighthouse and Island development is also being undertaken to attract Coastal tourists,’ he added. He went on to say that river cruises or inland cruises are another potential component of cruise tourism that could be explored.
According to Sanjiv Ranjan, Secretary Port and Shipping, the tourism sector in India is reviving after the pandemic, with cruise tourism growing 35% year on year. He stated that the Indian government has prepared the Maritime Vision Document 2030, which focuses on heritage tourism, Ayurveda tourism, coastal tourism, river cruise tourism, and so on.
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