Mumbai, December 7: Wealthy Indians, with a yen for luxury cruises or expensive sailing events, had no option but to hop on a plane to indulge their desires; this is now rapidly changing, with international cruise lines and home-grown entrepreneurs stepping in to fill the breach offering cruises and water-related tourism in coastal regions. Case in point: last month, the Kerala Government introduced water taxis and six-seater, fully air-conditioned hop-on, hop-off boat services to increase the tourism potential of its scenic backwaters. An industry official said there was a cruise tourism terminal in Mumbai Port and the government was looking to scale up and optimise it to attract more cruise liners to make it a regular port of call.
Ratna Chadha, Chief Executive of Tirun Travel Marketing, exclusive representative for Azamara Club Cruises said: The potential in India is huge as only about a 100,000 people are into cruises now. We give customers an opportunity to experience the best of wines, and cuisines, besides hosting bespoke events. Earlier this week, the Royal Caribbean-owned Azamara Club Cruises had announced its first sailing from India. Cruise lines say that despite the steep prices, ranging from $4,000 onwards for a 10-12 day trip, high net worth individual (HNI) consumers are coming back for an experience which matches that of the best luxury hotels. Interestingly, HNIs in tier-2 and -3 cities are driving up the demand.
Sailing gaining popularity Another water-related activity that is becoming popular is sailing. Nautica Regatta, a sailing event started by IIT-ian and entrepreneur Suheim Sheikh, has corporate honchos like Jamshyd Godrej and Harsh Mariwala, along with cricketer Irfan Pathan, queuing up to take part. Keel boat sailing is fast catching up. Though it is a sport of the rich and famous globally, in India mid-income people are also coming forward. We plan to utilise the long coastlines and attract more tourists, Sheikh said. The event started six years ago as the Monsoon Regatta in Hyderabads Hussain Sagar lake. According to the Kotak Wealth Management report, there will be a 16 per cent increase in the number of ultra-wealthy Indians to around 117,000 in FY 2013-14. The report said that nearly 50 per cent of ultra HNIs were making at least three luxury trips and about a third (33 per cent) spend a whopping 25 lakh annually on leisure.