MUMBAI: Aiming to increase cruise tourism, the Centre is mulling to include vacations on luxury ships under the Leave Travel Concession (LTC) scheme where government employees get their travel costs reimbursed.
"We are looking at including cruise tours under the LTC scheme. Employees can go on cruise ships at government expense," Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Suman Billa said during a session on tourism at the Maritime India Summit here today. He said such a move will shore up the sagging numbers of tourists opting for cruise tours and will be a huge boost for the sector. Mr Billa said for the five years between FY10 and FY14, there has been a 14 per cent decline in the number of tourists opting for cruise tours in the country, a trend the government wants to reverse. In FY10, there were 55,000 domestic and 1.35 lakh foreign tourists who boarded cruise ships, which dropped to 45,000 and 70,000, respectively, in FY14, he said.
Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma today said presently only 0.40 per cent of the tourists in India opt for cruise tours, while India's share in the global cruise tourism market is 0.68 per cent. The government is targeting to take this up to 1 per cent by 2020 and further to 2 per cent later. Most Indians "have a craze" towards cruise tourism, he said, adding that special emphasis has been laid on cruise tourism in the last 18 months.
Mr Billa said a task force set up in November 2015 to increase cruise tourism is looking at various aspects, including developing infrastructure, simplifying procedures, increasing marketing and communication activities, and incentives and commissions.
The move to include holidays on cruise ships under the LTC is also one of the proposals the task force, chaired by tourism secretary and co-chaired by the shipping secretary, is looking into, he said. Mr Billa said India is best placed to take advantage of cruise tourism as it stands close to a busy route for cruise ships between the Middle East and South East Asian countries.