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Cruising find many takers among Indian incentive groups

Cruising find many takers among Indian incentive groups
September 12
12:40 2017

Also finding many takers from the corporate world for the incentive travel, reports Nitisha Dubey


According to the industry stakeholders share of cruise tourists in India’s overall tourism basket is small but the growth is overwhelming. Singapore, one of the most popular cruise destinations in India recorded a 29 per cent increase in passengers from the market with 100,000 arrivals last year. Aprat from South East Asian destinations, European markets have become immensely popular for MICE in India.

“Over the last few years not only has the cruise product been identified as a strong travel option, but has been particularly very popular with corporate groups. Costa has had many MICE groups sail on cruise itineraries from Singapore, Barcelona, Savona (Milan), Stockholm and Dubai. The Europe region had two charters in terms of special events onboard. Costa Cruises has been the first to see such cruise charters in the Mediterranean region. We expect a growth of nearly 100% increase in MICE numbers, with the introduction first time ever cruise sailings from Mumbai to Cochin from Nov 2017 to March 2018,” said Vasundhara Gupta, Manager, Corporate and Trade Sales, Costa Cruise India, GSA Lotus Destinations.

Gupta shared that due to the ease of embarking or disembarking from Mumbai port and no requirement of visas, there has been a lot of interest from corporates.

“The introduction of Mumbai Sailings has also enhanced the popularity of our sailings from other regions of the globe and we have already closed large MICE groups for our European Mediterranean itineraries, almost 6 months prior the sailing date, which is usually not the norm with a MICE clientele,” she added.

A recent survey by TIRUN – the India representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises, , conveyed that the awareness and desire for a cruise vacation were very high in the country. A whopping 80% of respondent were aware and wanted to go on a cruise vacation.

“We are expecting a 60% growth rate over the previous year in passenger bookings from India. From India, total number of cruise travellers from the last couple of years has been around 1, 00,000 and in 2016, the total number of cruise travellers was approximately 1, 25,000. This year, we expect the 150,000 travellers from India,” said Ratna Chadha, Chief Executive, TIRUN.
“With more and more awareness being spread for Cruise holidays and vast choices available suiting individual budget and needs, the trend has been more towards Mediterranean sailings for incentive movements. We not only cater to incentive movements on 07 night sailings, the same has also been quite popular on our short sailings, General Manager – India, MSC Cruise.

However, some stakeholders shared that South East Asian markets still remain major drawers of cruising for the Indian incentive groups. Richa Goyal Sikri, Director, STIC Travel Group who represent Holland America Line and A-Rosa – European river cruise product in India opined that the current demand for ‘incentive cruises’ is strong and on an upward trend.
“While the most popular cruise itineraries seem to be shorter duration and Asia first with the Star Cruise product, Europe is also very strong. Companies and agencies both like the ‘incentive cruise’ segment as its hassle free, with everything included in the cruise price, this product category works out to be more cost effective than a land tour. Furthermore, with any large group, there will always be hiccups and last minute issues, but opting for a cruise significantly reduces the probability. Overall, I think this segment has a lot of potential but the only hindrance sometimes can be the restrictions on the visa front. This is another reason why corporates and agencies tend to favour Asian cruises and European with the Schengen covering all destinations,” said Sikri.

According to Naresh Rawal, VP Sales- India, Genting Cruise Lines, “MICE business is quiet a substantial contributor to our cruise business. In India with Star Cruises we have observed a high number of MICE travellers from the corporate sector. Year-on-year we see a rise in the number of pax cruising from India opting for longer duration cruise itineraries with a greater willingness to explore new destinations. With the introduction of Dream Cruises, corporate, travel agents and MICE planners will also now have a broader choice of vacation experiences and accommodation options that are tailor-made for the region, addressing the various levels of needs and providing inspired vacation experiences.”

From coming November onwards Dream Cruises, first luxury ship Genting Dream will be sailing out from Singapore and the second newly built World Dream will be sailing out from Hong Kong.
A section of key major players of the sector expressed apprehensions on the recently rolled out Goods & Sales Tax (GST) impact on domestic MICE business, resulting in shifting of MICE business to international markets.

Nishith Saxena, Founder & Director, Cruise Professionals said, “Indian incentive market has been in aggressive mode already and with new GST regime, which makes conducting and organizing MICE business in India more expensive, the incentive business is going to move out of India. Outbound is going to be a big beneficiary of this situation.”

Saxena also expresed that if corporates and MICE agents learn to manage their group requirements within the realm of facilities provided onboard a ship, then cruising could become the most sensible option for incentive movements.

“Unlike any hotel or resort, on cruises we serve up to 2000 or more pax every single day of the year. The ability to handle large groups is intrinsic to cruise companies and most cruise companies have higher ratings than many first class hotels in terms of service, food and ambience. We could provide customised menus and entertainment to large groups and also provide unique experiences if so required. There is no limit to what can be done as long as the cost is not a consideration and it does not inconvenience other passengers on board,” he added.

Courting the Indian Market

“From incentive holidays for sales people, distributors and dealers; prize holidays; brand support and promotional events; conventions, meetings and conferences; product launches and presentations; international events, we at MSC Cruises ensure every aspect of an event is a resounding success, supporting strategic objectives of a company,” said Sampat.
“At MSC Cruises we believe in personalization and innovation. From branding activities with corporate colours and logo to designing special menus themed to an event and providing wide choice of activities on-board with world class entertainment every evening, our team plays an important role in supporting the success of all events,” he added.

While offering a variety of short 3-5 nights cruise itineraries across the globe including in Mediterranean, India, North Europe, Dubai, Japan and Far East, Costa Cruise offers great value ads such as attractive alcoholic beverage packages, free of cost venues onboard for meetings, gala dinners and most importantly, Indian meals.
To enhance the experience of Indian cruise travellers, cruise liners are appending Indian specific activities like adding a special curated Indian menu onboard for travellers. With the increase in number of Indian guests on cruise sailings, Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas replaces the cuisine of Sabor restaurant from Mexican to Indian. Sabor serving Indian cuisine will be available for 2017 European sailings.
“Indian clients will now be able to enjoy authentic Indian cuisine from all over the country in Sabor Indian Cuisine, the premium restaurant in Royal Caribbean International’s pristine cruise ship Navigator of the Seas. Sabor, which originally featured a Mexican cuisine, now offers everything from Alleppey fish curry to Rogan Josh, mapping the length and breadth of India through its culinary delights,” shared Chadha.
Some the largest ships in the world are with Royal Caribbean. These are state-of-the-art ships where technology and comfort go hand in hand. These are a big hit among the Indian customers.
Royal Caribbean International is amongst the only cruise line which has signature sailings around the world. Be it cruises covering the Monaco Formula 1 race or a sailing which captured the great American eclipse from point 0. The Indian travellers plan their holiday around these cruises.
After learning from the past campaigns where the Indian travellers were opting for a one stop shop for all their booking needs, TIRUN has introduced a Fly Cruise campaign in partnership with Singapore Airlines and Singapore Tourism Board. The move comes across as a one-of-its-kind opportunity for Indian travellers to enjoy the experience of a cruise and a premium flight at just the price of one. The offer provides guests with amazing vacation experience at an affordable price and convenience for guests and travel agents alike.
Besides these the Indian travellers get to enjoy world class branded entertainment on most sailings along with special Bollywood themed events and music while on board.

On Holland America, the cruise liner offers a separate program named, GAP (Group Amenities Program) to deal with Indian MICE or even wedding groups, affinity Group, special interest group or a family reunion.

This unique program has more than 34 amenities to choose upon based on per person value. The amenities are cocktail party with hot d’oveure, internet package, a bottle of wine, onboard ship credit, specialty lunch or dinner at Pinnacle Grill among other amenities. Group benefits also includes free upgrades or beverage package.

Understanding the Indian MICE requirements, the cruise line can also provide dedicated space for the mid size or large group. The team building activities for MICE and audio visual equipment services are also available at a minimal cost.

With the ship capacity of A-Rosa being 200-240 passengers anyone can easily charter the ship as per their requirement. The cruise line is also flexible to provide charters for 1 or 2 days which provides client benefit to choose the itinerary Paris-Lyon, Vienna to Bratislava or Frankfurt to Cologne apart from the regular itinerary.

A-Rosa has a large lounge and lounge bar which can accommodate 152 persons sitting in classroom or cluster style. The cruise line is also flexible to arrange local belly dancer or one can also arrange the same at their convenience.

Genting Hong Kong today showcases an impressive portfolio of cruise brands, each catering to the three major cruise market segments, which include the founding cruise brand – Star Cruises for the Asian contemporary segment; luxury Asian cruise line – Dream Cruises for the high-end segment in Asia; and the most awarded luxury cruise line – Crystal Cruises for the global luxury segment.

“Teambuilding activities are making a comeback, multiple venues, which are offering creative options for teambuilding activities are in demand. For instance venues with options offering golfing lessons, Aqua Zumba and Bollywood theme cruises are attracting more meeting planners,” concluded Rawal.


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Nitisha Dubey

Nitisha Dubey

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