Market Insight: What Indian Cruisers Want
India's cruise market is growing - so is the nation's cruise wedding industry. Nalini Gupta, Head of Costa Cruise India, discusses the key trends:
What is driving Indians' interest in cruise weddings?
While cruise holidays are part of the bucket list of many Indian travelers, Indian wedding planners and couples have discovered that weddings on board a cruise can be one of the most hassle free, unique and cost-effective options.
Keeping in line with the trend, in 2017, we celebrated the largest Indian wedding ever at sea, whereby Costa Fascinosa, a 3,800-guest capacity, was chartered exclusively for four nights in the Mediterranean. While the welcome party was held in one of the lounges, the Sangeeta was staged in the Grand Theatre, Baraat on the outer top decks of the ship and the finale White Party on the poolside.
Even more recently, being the only cruise liner to provide a cruise from Mumbai to Cochin, we witnessed a Marwari wedding of 250 guests.
The main aim is to provide an all-inclusive wedding package including accommodation, entertainment activities to keep guests and kids engaged, multiple venue options that can even accommodate 1,000 guests and unlimited beverage packages. So, the keen interest in Indians wanting to have cruise weddings would be a combination of providing luxury at great value and also hassle-free planning.
Did the Adel Sajan / Sana Khan wedding help boost Costa Cruises' visibility in India?
Yes, the Adel Sana wedding was a very grand affair. With a lot of media on board, there was a great amount of coverage, but what really helped us get more weddings was the word of mouth publicity, as we really exceeded the expectations of the Sajan family.
What are Indian cruisers looking for in a cruise experience?
The Indian traveler wants an international experience on board with good food and entertainment. With the food, it is important to keep in mind the Indian customs of Indian and Jain meals. This is important for any company if they really want to tap numbers within the Indian travel market. On our Mumbai to Maldives sailings we have a large Indian and Jain buffet corner available along with the international options. Also, while Indians are taking their first cruising holiday from India and closer ports like Singapore and Dubai, there is also been a good demand of cruises from Europe, Japan, Alaska, the Caribbean and even Antarctica.
The Indian traveler, also looks for good value in terms of cost, as many of them still like traveling on the cruise as a group of families or friends.
How popular is Costa's Mumbai-New Mangalore-Cochin itinerary?
We have received an overwhelming response from travelers over the past three seasons, and looking at the growing demand, in November 2019, we are deploying Costa Victoria, which is a larger vessel than the previously deployed vessels. We believe in strategically growing the market and building a strong foundation.
Does Costa plan more coastwise cruises between midsize cities?
Yes, there is the possibility of exploring midsize and exotic ports like Lakshadweep, the Andaman / Nicobar islands or along the eastern coast Vizag. India has a long coastline, much off which still stands unexplored. However, it will be important to have infrastructure and facilities upgraded to international standards, before we cruise to those ports. I am confident with the Government’s keen interest in building the blue economy of the country, this will definitely happen. The magnitude of cruising within India is large, and right now it has just started.
What is the overall outlook for India's home-ported cruise industry?
Cruising holidays within India are growing aggressively, but only about one percent of outbound Indian travelers contribute to the global cruising numbers, so there is huge opportunity in this segment. The big growth in numbers will happen only when cruise liners start home porting the ships along the Indian coastline, which is the case that happened even for China, when Costa Cruises deployed its ship in Shanghai in 2006. In fact, the Indian cruise market has potential to exceed China's numbers once more cruise liners start home porting ships at Indian ports. We saw good jump in our Indian passenger numbers and market share after we started our Mumbai to Maldives cruise. The Indian traveler is ready, and cruising is now on many traveler’s bucket list.
From a homeporting point of view, while we saw an improvement in port facilities and a better understanding of the sector from the other Government agencies such as the Customs department, Immigration, CISF over the initial season, a clear cruise policy and exemption of taxes needs to be brought out by the Government to enable this sector to flourish in India and gain its rightful place in the world,
Does Costa plan any longer-distance routes for the India market, like Jalesh's Mumbai-Dubai service?
Presently we have a seven nights one way or 14 nights return itinerary from Mumbai to Maldives and seven nights round trip itineraries from Dubai. In fact, our India itineraries with Mumbai as home port have been in service since December 2016 and the Dubai itinerary for nearly a decade. A Mumbai to Dubai service is a one-off itinerary, and no cruise liner has this routing as a regular service as yet. However, in the future, as more ships homeport in India, there are the possibility for many routes from India to Dubai, Far East or in the South-East Asia region.