India potential immense if obstacles can be overcome, while ASEAN continues to boom

One of the Asian markets with vast untapped potential is India, according to a Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific forum, which also said the Southeast Asia market can grow further.

According to Ted Blamey, principal, CHART Management Consultants, India is one of the region's largest and growing markets, ranking fifth after China, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore. It has grown 25% annually since 2012. In 2016, more than 120,000 Indians cruised.

India has a relatively short cruise history, with Star Cruises dabbling in the market for a brief period before pulling out. Currently Costa Cruises operates sailings that are tailored for Indians from Mumbai to destinations such as Mauritius.

Miami-based consultancy Bermello Ajamil & Partners is working with a few other parties to help India increase its participation in the cruise industry. The group has come up with a 30-year cruise action plan, according to Mark Ittel, SVP ports & maritime.

For the business to really take off there, immediate changes are needed to remove operational obstacles. Also, satisfaction rates by international cruise visitors to India are low. Ittel cited cumbersome clearance processes and high operating costs. Better port infrastructure and friendlier policies are needed.

The B&A-led group will be providing expertise to develop the necessary cruise support infrastructure. Ittel expressed the confidence India could become a global cruise leader.

In Southeast Asia, there is potential for the cruise penetration rate in the ASEAN region to exceed that of the US.

Sean Treacy, MD Singapore and Southeast Asia, Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia, outlined the opportunities his company has had there.

Royal Caribbean began charting Southeast Asia regularly in 2007 with six cruises and notched up deployment to 76 sailings in the 2017/18 season, carrying a quarter of a million passengers.

Besides ASEAN, India and China have been good fly-cruise markets for the company.

Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport provides attractive airlift and the cruise line will need more in the coming year, Treacy said. He noted Changi has just opened its fourth terminal and continues to build.

Treacy urged efforts to increase awareness of cruising and the distribution system's knowledge of cruise vacations.

'Southeast Asia is a great destination and we need to continue to grow,' he said.

Posted 05 November 2017

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Jacintha  Stephens

Singapore correspondent