Plea to make Kochi a home port for cruise vessels
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Transcare Logistics India Pvt ltd, which had prepared a business plan for the Cochin Port Trust, has suggested that the port should make Kochi "as a turnaround or a home port" in its efforts to attract more cruise vessels.

The consultants, in their report, pointed out that there were about 350 vessels cruising around the world and, taking their routes into consideration, 150 of them could call at Kochi during the off season. The port should be positioned based on Kerala being a major tourist destination.

geographical advantage

Kochi being the closest Indian port to the international maritime route will leverage its geographical advantage as it plans for the cruise terminal at an estimated cost of Rs 55 crore. When the terminal is operational as projected in 2009-10, the revenue would be Rs 10.67 crore in the first year itself from terminal operations and vessel related charges, the consultants said.

Meanwhile, the number of cruise vessels calling at the port had increased to 42 during the current fiscal and the port is expecting eight more vessels during the period. The port is expecting Queen Victoria, the new vessel in the fleet of Cunard Liners, on March 26 with 2,014 passengers.

The conduct of the most popular sporting event-Volvo Ocean Race-is also likely to boost the efforts of the port to project it as a premium cruise destination in India. It will further enhance Kochi's standing as the hub of leisure sailing and cruising.

The port had appointed MIR Projects and Consultants and its associate, the US-based Tran Systems, as consultants for the international cruise terminal project last year. The consultants will evolve a business plan and submit a feasibility report for which discussions are learnt to be in their final stages. The terminal, envisaged as a tourist-cum-public facility and the port had earmarked five hectares of waterfront in this regard.

Tourists arrival

Encouraged by the steady growth of the State's tourism sector, Kerala expects 5.65 lakh foreigners to visit the State in 2008-09. It also expects about 70 lakh domestic tourists during the year.

During 2007-08, about 5.50 lakh foreign and 66.42 lakh domestic tourists visited the State. In 2007, foreign tourist arrivals registered a 20.37 per cent growth while domestic tourist arrivals went up by 5.92 per cent.

The reports from the State Tourism Department pointed out that tourism is the major contributor to Kerala's economy, which has made a steady growth during the last 15 years.