Travel Corporation of India is planning to introduce cruises in the Indian ocean by end of 2004. It has offered the Indian government to pick-up a 26 per cent equity in the cruise venture.
Government officials confirmed that the proposal has been received and it is planning to initiate a feasibility study for the same.
TCI director Adi J Katgara said: "It is true that we are planning to have a cruise ship operating in the Indian Ocean, but owing to certain difficulties faced, our plan is postponed to operate such cruises from the winter of 2004 onwards."
The company has been working on the venture to create a unique selling proposition for itself since it is facing increased competition from the growing number of multinationals in the travel arena including Kuoni, Thomas Cook and Cox & Kings.
Interestingly, the travel wing of the India Tourism Development Corporation, Ashok Tours & Travel, has been planning to get into the cruise business.
Though the ministry sources ruled out ITDC picking up stake in the venture, the industry sources added that it will be either a quasi-government or a government body, which will pick up stake in the venture.
The cruise business in the country has shown a considerable increase over the last two years.
While the number of people going for a cruise is likely to increase from about 25,000-30,000 passengers who sailed outside India last year to 50,000 this year, the business in value terms has been growing at about 30 per cent per annum.
Most big cruise companies including Carnival, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have already set-up shop in India.
Since India is still a small market for most international cruise companies, none of them have introduced specific itinerary to cater to the Indian diaspora.
TCI officials feel that the Indian Ocean cruise package will help establish a unique selling proposition for the company in a competitive scenario.