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BUSINESS TRAVEL

Jalesh Cruises takes delivery of its first cruise vessel

Jalesh Cruises first premiere cruise line catering to the Indian domestic and international cruise business, received its first ship, Karnika, the erstwhile Pacific Jewel from P&O Australia, today in Singapore. The vessel, which is the first in the fleet of the multi-destination cruise line Jalesh Cruises, will reach Mumbai on April 17.

Keeping with tradition, the 2,000 passenger ship, which weighs 70,285 tons, will go through its naming ceremony at a gala event in Mumbai on April 19.

Jurgen Bailom, President & CEO, Zen Cruises, said, “Today marks an important day for the Indian cruise tourism industry with the acceptance of Jalesh Cruises first ship. We are going to offer a memorable vacation to passengers on board with exotic culinary experiences, international hospitality and best of entertainment shows at high seas. With Karnika, we mark the beginning of memorable cruise holidays that will bring joy and delight to the Indian and global community.”

Karnika will dry dock in Singapore at Sembcorp Marine Admiralty Yard over the next few weeks for an extensive refurbishment exercise to customize the ship to suit Indians travelers. It will then proceed from Singapore to Colombo via Kochi, New Mangalore, Goa and finally arrive in Mumbai on April 17.

The cruise liner will be sailing initially between Mumbai and Goa for first few weeks till May 2019 before proceeding to the Middle East where it will remain till mid-September. The cruise liner will be exploring the huge coastal length of India and giving the customer to enjoy and savor the same. Between May 2019 and September 2019, cruise passengers will have a choice of itineraries between Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha, Dubai, Muscat, and Sir Ban Yas Island.

Following the refurbishment, Karnika will offer a multitude of facilities including spas, salons, fitness, fine dining, leisure activities for kids and teenagers alike.

To give a wholesome experience of vacation to cruise passengers, Jalesh Cruises will also offer onshore Excursions across Indian port cities including Kochi, Mormugao, Mumbai, and international locations including Abu Dhabi, Colombo, Dubai, Muscat among others.

The company has initiated bookings for its 2019 itineraries on its website www.jaleshcruises.com or directly through its holiday advisors at 1800 266 8927 in addition to its Sales Business Partners.

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BUSINESS TRAVEL

Saudi tourism sector worth over $70 billion in 2019

New leisure and tourism facilities forecast to fuel domestic tourism at 8% per year until 2023, says new Arabian Travel Market report.

Photo: Unsplash

Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector is expected to contribute $70.9 billion (SAR 263.1 billion) in total to the country’s GDP in 2019, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, as exhibitors prepare to showcase what the Kingdom has to offer at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which is being held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 28 April – 1 May 2019.

According to data from ATM’s research partner Colliers, international arrivals to Saudi Arabia are expected to increase 5.6% per year from 17.7 million in 2018 to 23.3 million in 2023. Religious tourism is expected to remain the bedrock of the sector over the next decade, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the Kingdom by 2030, an increase of 11 million from the 19 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims that visited the country in 2017.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “At ATM, we are witnessing this growth first hand with the total number of delegates arriving from Saudi Arabia increasing 42% between 2017 and 2018, while 33% of delegates, exhibitors and attendees were interested in doing business with the Kingdom.

“More relaxed access to visas, through online portals such as the ‘Sharek’ and the growth of the Umrah plus market – combining religious and leisure travel – are expected to be key drivers in the growth of international tourism in the Kingdom.”

Vision 2030 has set aside $64 billion to invest in culture, leisure and entertainment projects over the next decade, which will significantly add to the attractiveness of the country as a touristic destination, according to a recent report from real estate firm Savills.

The first phase of the Red Sea project, which is estimated to grow the kingdom’s GDP by US$5.86 billion (SAR22 billion) and will consist of an airport, marinas, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and various recreational activities, is expected to complete during 2022.

Additionally, last year Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announced the development of Amaala, a new ultra-luxury tourism megaproject which is earmarked for completion in 2028. The development will add 2,500 hotel rooms – further boosting the accommodation offering for both domestic and international visitors alike.

“Saudi Arabia will see a vast expansion of its hotel and resort inventory during 2019, with over 9,000 keys of three, four and five-star international supply expected to enter the market despite major cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah experiencing an overall drop in ADR during 2018.

“While this new supply will place additional competitive pressure on hotels performance across the country, the projected growth in visitor numbers in both the domestic and international markets is expected to boost occupancy levels throughout 2019,” added Curtis.

Looking ahead to ATM 2019, Saudi exhibitors, who will highlight what the Kingdom has to offer and the exciting developments in the pipeline, include The Red Sea Development Company, Saudia – Saudi Arabian Airlines, Makarem Hotels, AlfaOne Concierge – and of course the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage who will have a major presence too.

A focused seminar titled ‘Why Tourism is Saudi’s new ‘White Oil’ will take place on the Global Stage on Monday 29th April between 14.50 – 15:50.  The session will discuss Saudi Arabia’s tourism potential as the Kingdom undergoes a period of rapid economic diversification and forges ahead with its Vision 2030 blueprint.

The upbeat tourism forecast is also being driven, by domestic tourism with the number of local tourist trips inside Saudi Arabia exceeding 47 million in 2018. The latest research from Colliers forecasts this figure to increase 8% per year to 70.5 million by 2023.

“Plans are already afoot in Saudi, to achieve the projected increase in domestic visitors, with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 blueprint forecast to double the number of UNESCO heritage sites and increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the country from 2.9% to 6%.

“Meanwhile, the Quality of Life Vision Realisation Programme (VRP) and the General Entertainment Authority are both working to create new attractions and recreational activities within the country,” added Curtis.

ATM, considered by industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, welcomed over 39,000 people to its 2018 event, showcasing the largest exhibition in the history of the show, with hotels comprising 20% of the floor area.

Brand new for this year’s show will be the launch of Arabian Travel Week, an umbrella brand comprising four co-located shows including ATM 2019, ILTM Arabia, CONNECT the Middle East, India & Africa – a new route development forum and new consumer-led event ATM Holiday Shopper. Arabian Travel Week will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 27 April – 1 May 2019.

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CRUISE

The real growth of Indian cruise tourism is in home-porting: Nalini Gupta

The growth of Indian cruise passengers will exceed that of China, says Nalini Udai Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations (GSA Costa Cruise India), shares her views on the cruise industry.

What do you think of the Indian government’s initiative to boost cruise tourism in the country?
As the government realizes the importance and the benefits of the cruising industry on the Blue Economy of India, we are hoping that the tax climate, that is custom duties and the GST will become more customer-friendly and also in accordance with international norms. Tax exemptions for at least 10 years, will definitely entice more international cruise liners to homeport in India. These proposals have also been supported by the Ministry of Tourism and Shipping, which is a very positive sign. The government is also spending a large amount of money to improve the infrastructure at ports and align it to international standards. Also, tourists are also able to get visa-on-arrival facilities at the Indian ports.

Could you shed light on the outbound market for cruise tourism in India? What are the key trends dominating this sector?
More Indians are cruising to Singapore. Indians, in fact, account for one of Singapore’s largest source markets for cruising. Most Indians typically prefer cruises which are short, close to home, have good flight connectivity and easy visa formalities. Keeping this in mind, we have had many first-time cruisers experience their first sailing on our Mumbai to Maldives and Cochin to Maldives itineraries from December to March. Our sailings in Singapore during the Diwali and Christmas season, also have many Indian travelers. However, in the recent past, 7 nights’ sailings in even the Mediterranean region have become popular. In fact, we were the first cruise liner to have an Indian wedding on our Europe sailing, with over 2,000 guests traveling to Milan to embark on the cruise. As Indians recognize cruising as an easy, relaxing, and great value-for-the-money way to travel, after they take their first cruise, they are wanting to combine cruises with their land vacations.

Nalini Gupta

In the recent past, we have also seen travel agents from not only Tier 1 cities of India, but also from Tier 2 and 3 cities, selling cruise packages.

Could you shed light on the inbound market for cruise tourism in India? What are the key trends dominating this sector?
The inbound market for cruise tourism is doing well. However, typically the foreign passenger prefers to take a longer cruise of at least 10-14 nights. Many foreigners love seeing India through a cruise and are spending good amounts of money at each of the ports.

How well-positioned is India to emerge as the most sought-after cruise tourism destination?
The real growth and opportunity of cruise tourism in India are in home-porting. More international cruise companies need to come to India with their ships around the year. The Indian cruise sector, according to a recent report, estimated that the growth of Indian cruise passengers will exceed that of China, once home-porting becomes more popular.

What additional steps should the Indian government take to upgrade cruise tourism?
Experts say India has the potential to develop a thriving domestic cruise business—if only the costs didn’t stand in the way. Among the prevalent being GST & Custom duties on the consumption of alcohol, bonded stores, and bunkers in territorial waters, out to 200 nautical miles.

What are the key challenges your brand is facing at the moment?
Since Costa Cruise sells across the globe, many a time, the cabins are booked by other markets well in advance. Therefore, with Indian clients, who book in the last minute, there is a dearth of availability of cabins. Also, there are last minute cancellations due to visa rejections and delays.

What strategies are you implementing to position your brand as the preferred cruise for tourists?
Well, for starters, we are the first cruise liner that has come back to Mumbai to homeport a ship after 10 years. This shows our dedication towards wanting to build the Indian market. We have seen a great increase in numbers from the time we started our India program in December 2016. These increase in numbers have been across even our Europe and Singapore sailings. We also work with travel agents closely and try to be as flexible towards their needs and the customers. Lastly, we have made sure to have important customizations like the availability of Indian/ Jain meal requests. All these initiatives have helped in great word-of-mouth publicity, which not only brings in new clients but also repeat customers.

What kind of tie-ups do you already have or are you looking at?
We usually have many partnerships with airlines for Fly+Cruise for the Mumbai to Maldives, and Cochin to Maldives sailings. These offers do very well and make it simpler for the travel agent to sell the product. We are looking at having more such initiatives across sailings in Europe, Dubai, and other Costa destinations.

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AIRLINES

Indigo adds 14 new flights

IndiGo is further enhancing its customer experience with the launch of 14 new flights on its network. The country’s largest low-cost carrier  has introduced three new routes and will operate its first flight between Chennai – Raipur,
Hyderabad – Gorakhpur, and Kolkata – Gorakhpur. The airline will also add flights on its existing routes
connecting, Chennai – Trivandrum, Bengaluru – Mangalore, Bengaluru – Udaipur, and Bengaluru – Chennai.
All new services will commence in April 2019.

William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, said, “We are very excited to add 14 new flights to our network along with 3 new routes connecting Chennai, Raipur, and Gorakhpur. IndiGo has completed 12 years of successful operations in the India market as a low-cost carrier, and adding new flights to its network will further augment the connectivity that we aspire to provide to our customers. It is our constant endeavor to provide our customers on-time, courteous and hassle-free service, and an affordable flying experience always.”

3 new routes include:

  • 1st flight between Chennai – Raipur
  • 1st flight between Hyderabad – Gorakhpur
  • 1st flight between Kolkata – Gorakhpur

Additional frequencies include:

  • 2nd flight between Chennai – Trivandrum
  • 2nd flight between Bengaluru – Udaipur
  • 4th flight between Bengaluru – Mangalore
  • 9th flight between Bengaluru – Chennai

 

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