DThe arrival of first cruise liner Italian flagged AIDAvita marked the beginning of the cruise season in Kerala on 5 Nov. The ship with 1,181 tourists and 406 crew members on board was docked at BTP berth, Kochi Port, around 8 am. The luxury liner began its journey from Dubai to Singapore on October 30.Before reaching Kochi, it was docked at Muscat, Goa and Mangaluru.
The arrival of cruise ships has led tourists to acquire a big dimension in Kochi more than a decade ago, the business has grown rapidly with the help of Port Trust building facilities and offering prompt services to the tourists with the aid of other government agencies. Tourists arriving in Kochi at most stay for a day and later explore the nearby destinations such as Kumbalanghi and the Alappuzha backwaters; also popular are the spice gardens. The influx of visits is helping the Kerala tourism, said a tour operator, who is closely associated with the cruise tourism business. Innovations like online visa clearances and reduction in the visa charges have helped boost the business, he said.
During 2018-19, 49 cruise vessels were called at Kochi with 62,753 passengers and 28, 828 crew members. During the current financial year, 16 cruise vessels (including AIDA Vita) with 27.095 passengers and 12,059 crew members, have called at the port, officials said. The port is expecting about 38 more cruise ships this financial year, rounding off to 54 during 2019-20.
Hospitality industry veteran Jose Dominic said that cruise tourism had helped substantially increase Kerala’s visibility and it created exposure for the foreign tourists. The growth was a sign that destinations such as Kochi were popular and it was to our advantage, he said. The reputation of Kochi as a destination has grown and the list of liners calling regularly at Kochi include those under the most prestigious operators as Cunard Lines. Royal Caribbean Lines, Aida cruises and Costa Cruises.