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STB’s Singapore Cruise Forum spurs thought-leadership conversations and exchange of ideas to grow Indian overseas cruise tourism

In 2018, India was Singapore’s top overseas source market for the cruise traveller segment. 160,000 Indian cruise holiday makers (a 27 per cent increase over 2017) traveled out of Singapore’s cruise terminals onboard a variety of cruise ships that were home-ported throughout the year or seasonally.

As part of its efforts to grow the cruise traveller segment in India, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) organized a Cruise Forum with the theme “Growing Cruise Connections, Achieving Together!” in New Delhi yesterday. The event was attended by travel trade partners, cruise line operators and cruise professionals.

According to report findings presented at the Cruise Forum by Jiali Wong, Regional Manager (Asia) of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), India as a cruise source market has grown by double digits in the past couple of years. In 2018, a total of 221,000 Indian cruise passengers sailed the seas, a 28 per cent growth over 2017. An interesting highlight was the average age of an Indian cruiser. Compared to 46.7 years for a Global Cruiser’s average age and 45.4 years for an Asia Cruiser, the Indian cruiser’s average was at a relatively younger 37 years old.

STB officials along with the panelists and guests at the Cruise Forum

Following the CLIA Presentation, three thought-provoking and engaging panel discussions were conducted: ‘Cruises a new venue for weddings, celebrations and MICE, ‘Changing Face of Indian Cruising – How to tap new segments?’, and ‘Singapore as a Cruising Capital’. The panelists, well respected and admired in the cruise industry, included Ratna Chadha, Chairperson and Founder (TIRUN Travel Marketing), Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO (Jailesh Cruises), Nishith Saxena, Founder and Director (Cruise Professionals), Naresh Rawal, Vice President, Sales – India and South Asia (Genting Cruise Lines) and Nalini Gupta, Managing Director (Lotus Aero Enterprises).

Adding weight and providing perspectives from the travel trade and cruise holiday intermediaries were panelists Pradeep Saboo, Chairman and Managing Director (Guideline Travels), Nikhil Thakurdas, CEO (Odyssey Tours & Travels), Deepak Rawat, Senior Vice President, Holidays Product and International Markets, Holidays Supply (Make My Trip, India), Anita Patni, Associate Vice President (Thomas Cook India), Nagsri, Founder (NAGSRI – Creating Special Memories) and Guldeep Singh Sahni, Managing Director (Weldon Tours and Travels), Rajeev Jain, Founder and Director (Rashi Entertainment) and Michael Lyngdoh, Founder (Tripoto).

Speaking about STB’s approach to developing cruise tourism among the Indian travellers, GB Srithar, Regional Director – India, Middle East & South Asia (IMESA), said, “We are adopting a two-pronged marketing strategy for the Indian outbound cruise market: firstly, to raise awareness and promote cruising as a hassle-free holiday option to the Indian travellers; and secondly, to entrench Singapore as their favourite cruise holiday destination, including presenting Singapore’s varied tourism offerings for pre and post cruise experiences in the city. Cruising holidays can appeal to diverse Indian travel segments like families, working millennials, weddings, MICE and those gathering for celebrations.”

At an Appreciation Dinner organised the same night, the STB thanked cruise lines and cruise travel intermediaries for promoting cruising from Singapore. Srithar presented ‘Valued Tourism Partner’ awards to representatives from key cruise lines operating out of Singapore and travel trade partners selling cruise holidays.

Emphasising the importance of working with multiple stakeholders, he added, “STB partners with stakeholders in the cruise industry to secure a vibrant pipeline of cruise ships and new cruise offerings in Singapore. Complementing the onboard cruise experiences, we work with Singapore travel trade to present a strong suite of leisure offerings for attractive pre and post cruise-stay in Singapore. Cruise holidays in Singapore present an opportunity to explore the popular sightseeing and attractions, rejuvenated precincts, the city’s growing café culture, innovative bars and restaurants, and go on a variety of interesting tours available.”

In a bid to cater to the growing demand for cruise tourism, leading cruise liners have amped up capacities and introduced new facilities. Genting Dream, with over 3,300 passenger capacity is double its predecessor SuperStar Gemini’s capacity. Royal Caribbean International recently announced that Asia’s largest ship, the Quantum of the Seas, will be refreshed and upgraded, before it returns to Singapore between November 2019 and April 2020 for a six-month deployment, marking the cruise line’s longest-ever deployment for a quantum class ship in Singapore.

“Consumer interest in cruise has been rising as Indian travellers discover the ease, relaxation and value of a cruise vacation. CLIA looks forward to partnering with more Indian travel agents to provide them with the essential training, resources and support to sell more cruise holidays in India.” said Joel Katz, CLIA Managing Director Australasia & Asia.

Discussing the same, Nalini Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Aero Enterprises (Representative for Costa Cruise India) added, “With the increase in footfall from Indian travellers opting for cruises to Singapore, it holds a great potential for our brand to curate experiences for the visitors from the country. We are strengthening our strategy based on sustainable development which is aligned with the trends and preferences of visitors. This shall help us boost the overall bookings and growth eventually. With the help of travel agencies, we are also seeing positive responses from the Tier I and Tier II city travellers.”

Commenting on the same, Ratna Chadha, Chairperson and Co-founder, Tirun Travel Marketing (Exclusive India Representative for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.) added, “Singapore is a favoured destination among the Indians, especially the segment which is seeking places to celebrate special occasions. We aim to offer the ultimate experiences with convenience and amenities designed keeping in mind with the changing demands of today’s travellers.”

Naresh Rawal, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Genting Cruise Lines said, “A cruise holiday offers diverse offerings from zipline to foam parties and caters to a wide range of travellers. We are committed to provide exceptional hospitality services which draw a lot of returning guests/travellers to our cruises. We have received amazing response to our Singapore – Surabaya – North Bali itinerary on board Genting Dream, significantly from India’s tier 2 cities travellers. We are also witnessing growth in travellers seeking for premium and luxury services and aim to develop offerings that align with this demand.”

Nishith Saxena, Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals Ltd. (Princess Cruises), shared, “With the rise of travellers seeking for personalized and specially created experiences, we have observed steady growth in experiential cruises. Brands in the segment are consistently working towards developing new age features in a sustainable manner to respond to the sentiments of these travellers. It is our commitment to offer an enhanced experience through design evolution and vibrant offerings to stay relevant with today’s tourist segment.”

Apart from the Cruise Forum, the STB will also undertake multiple activities and programmes to promote cruise holidays in India. This includes marketing partnerships with travel agencies and OTAs, learning sessions and webinars in association with CLIA and dialogue sessions with trade partners to exchange ideas on growing the cruise business to Singapore.