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Cordelia's 'Empress' begins West Coast operations, as India's cruise market goes full steam ahead

business | Oct 7, 2022 9:06 PM IST

Cordelia's 'Empress' begins West Coast operations, as India's cruise market goes full steam ahead

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While Cordelia says it expects to ferry 120,000 passengers over the next eight months, the bigger picture makes for better reading: over the next half-a-decade, the company hopes to operate as many as five cruise ships.

Mumbai’s cruising season resumes this month, and the familiar 'Empress' — the luxury cruise liner owned by Indian cruise company, Cordelia — will make its way down the West Coast, covering destinations like Kochi, Goa and the Lakshadweep Islands.

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While Cordelia says it expects to ferry 120,000 passengers over the next eight months, the bigger picture makes for better reading: over the next half-a-decade, the company hopes to operate as many as five cruise ships.
“Our idea to grow our company by three to four more ships over the next three to five years, and have one ship all year around on the East Coast,” said Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO, Cordelia Cruises.
“It is of strategic importance to cover the East, West and South Coast of India — the possibilities of the cruise market are really big on either side (of the coast). We would like to grow the market to two million passengers, and also grow employment to 200,000 at the same time,” he added.
Bailom’s outlook is in line with similarly optimistic projections by the Ministry of Shipping. After all, India has placed a big bet on the cruise market, and the ministry has projected a 10x growth over the next decade in terms of passenger count.
On the destination front, geographies like Sri Lanka and the Malay peninsula feature prominently. So, it comes as no surprise that the ministry estimates a cruise market valued at USD 100 million could swell to USD 5.5 billion, in this period.
A significant part of this success is already trickling in. For the first time in its operations, the Empress serviced the Chennai-Vizag market, ferrying 49,000 passengers between June and September. During this time, Cordelia reported a load factor (passenger occupancy) of 100 percent for its two-day cruises, and that of 65 to 85 percent for the five-day cruise.
As Cordelia now hopes to control 50 percent of a cruise market of about 4 million passengers, online travel agencies are factoring in their own growth prospects. Top names in the OTA space, including the likes of MakeMyTrip, Yatra, PickYourTrail and Thomas Cook, to name a few, are facilitating bookings for the eight-month-long West Coast cruise.
“If we grow about 15 to 20 percent quarter-on-quarter, that would be a good number for us internally, in the cruise space,” said Hari Ganapathy, Co-Founder, PickYourTrail, “We believe that at least 10 to 20 percent of our business will come from cruises as the organization matures, and the market also matures.”
Incidentally, when travellers from Chennai began boarding the Empress for two-day cruises back in June, nearly 5 to 10 percent of PickYourTrail’s business was accounted for by these itineraries.
What will come as music to the market’s ears is the China story — non-existent as a cruise market only a decade ago, but the second-largest one just seven years later. In 2018 alone, nearly 2.4 million Chinese nationals went on cruises in stark contrast to the cruise passenger count of 87,000 in 2011.
With names like the Royal Caribbean Cruises and Disney Cruises looking at India to break new waters, there’s a case for the Indian cruise market to power full steam ahead.
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