Visa extensions, conditional tax exemption among a few incentives to attract intl cruises: Sonowal, ET TravelWorld

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<p>Sarbananda Sonowal</p>
Sarbananda Sonowal

The Indian government has implemented a series of comprehensive incentives to entice international cruise lines and foster cruise tourism in the country, as per Union Minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal. These incentives aim to create a conducive environment for international cruise vessels while promoting India as an attractive cruise destination.

Among the various measures, the government has accorded priority to cruise vessels over cargo vessels for berthing, signaling a commitment to facilitate smoother operations for cruise liners, said Sonowal. Additionally, a rationalized cruise tariff structure has been introduced to ensure more favorable pricing for cruise companies. Port charges are now calculated at a fixed rate of USD0.085 per Gross Registered Tonne (GRT), while a nominal passenger head tax of USD 6 is levied for the initial 12 hours of a vessel’s berth stay.

In a strategic move to promote tourism, conditional Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) exemption has been sanctioned for foreign-flagged, foreign-going vessels when they convert to coastal runs, subject to their reconversion to foreign-going status within six months.

During the Global Maritime India Summit in 2023, sessions such as ‘Embark on a voyage to attract 50 million Cruise Passengers in India by 2047′ and a ‘Roundtable with Cruise lines’ were also organised, drawing the active participation of stakeholders from the industry, the minister recalled.

To further incentivise cruise liners, discounts ranging from 10 per cent to 30 per cent have been offered based on the volume of calls made by these vessels. Additionally, charges related to ousting have been eliminated, aiming to attract more cruise ships to Indian ports. Further, the extension of E-Visa and on-arrival visa facilities, alongside the introduction of a single e-Landing Card valid for all ports in a cruise itinerary, simplifies entry procedures for international visitors.

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The panel’s discourse painted a comprehensive picture of India’s outbound travel industry, highlighting successful strategies, emerging trends, and challenges. The consensus was that despite the hurdles posed by the pandemic and geopolitical tensions, opportunities abound for businesses to cater to India’s evolving travel market by prioritising unique and priceless experiences.

Sonowal, in his Rajya Sabha reply, also mentioned that the significant efforts have been directed toward infrastructure development, with completed upgrades and modernization of Cruise Terminals at prominent ports such as New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Mormugao, and Visakhapatnam. This enhancement of facilities aims to provide a seamless and enjoyable experience for both passengers and operators.Additionally, a notable policy change involves the waiver of cabotage for foreign cruise vessels, enabling them to transport Indian nationals from one Indian Port to another during their domestic leg. Sonowal emphasized that this relaxation serves as a significant boon for international cruise ships operating in Indian waters.

The impact of these initiatives is also evident from the increased number of port calls made by international cruise liners. In the fiscal year 2022-23, there were 60 port calls, while up to October 31, 2023, there were already 29 port calls at various Indian ports including Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, and Tuticorin, showcasing the growing interest and engagement of international cruise companies with Indian destinations.

  • Published On Dec 15, 2023 at 12:07 PM IST

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