In a first of its kind venture, the government-owned Kochi port in Kerala is planning a retail foray by building a public plaza inside the port as it seeks to cash in on cruise- ship traffic.
Thirty-eight cruise ships called at the Kochi port between April 2006 and March 2007 bringing 16,018 passengers and 11,239 crew to the state, which bills itself the world over as “God’s own country”.
Kochi attracted the maximum number of cruise lines for an Indian port in the year leading up to 31 March, with 38 ships, up from 22 in 2005-06. The growth in tourists travelling on cruise ships to Kochi rose 50% to 16,018 from 11,563 a year earlier. The port earned more than Rs1.75 crore as calling charges from cruise ships during 2006-07 compared with Rs1.35 crore in 2005-06.
It was the arrival of cruise line Queen Mary 2 on 7 March, carrying 2,431 passengers and 1,259 crew members, which convinced the port authorities about the potential viability of their retail plans. The port had put a small stall near the cruise berth with elephants carved out of teakwood and rosewood, and other handicrafts. “About Rs79,000 worth of business was transacted at the stall in just a couple of hours,” says Girish Thomas, an assistant traffic manager at the port.
Out of the 2,431 passengers on board, about 1,100 bought articles and goods worth Rs2.5 crore in one day, according to port officials. “We will bring entire Kerala to those who don’t want to go out,” says Capt. Subhash Kumar, deputy chairman of Cochin Port Trust. When a cruise ship calls at a port, many passengers, including those who are elderly—a large segment of overseas cruisers—typically prefer to remain on board the ship rather than take day trips. The proposed retail business primarily aims to tap these passengers.
The proposed public plaza will offer a range of facilities for entertainment and recreation, and shopping, including general and speciality malls, culture and arts, hospitality, restaurants, dining and food courts, health, ayurveda, spa products, business, conferencing and trade exhibitions, and duty-free shops. The port plans to lease space to specialists in these fields.
The facility, to be built on a public-private partnership (PPP) model, will showcase and promote Kerala’s traditional culture and art forms, cuisine and its ethnic produce, port officials say.
Port authorities are drawing up plans to build a cruise terminal along with the public plaza at the northern end of Willingdon Island. The terminal and its plaza will be built over 12 acres on the island’s prime waterfront that offers glimpses of the famed Kerala backwaters and panoramic view of the Ernakulam city skyline. The cruise terminal will be able to handle all sizes of cruise ships taking into account the latest global trends in cruise-ship design.
While new cruise terminals planned at Mumbai and Mormugao ports involve only a berth for the ships to anchor and provisions for security clearance, customs and immigration facilities, Kochi is pursuing a different plan.
Part of the cruise terminal, a multi-storeyed complex, will be designed as an accessible public destination, which is expected to attract the local community as well as visitors. This part of the complex will be completely separate from the terminal facilities and customs area. Arup Sen, director operations at travel firm Cox and Kings, says the Indian cruise industry will likely follow the US model, with domestic cruises generating more revenue than international cruise ships.