MUMBAI: Subhash Chandra-owned Essel Group’s Jalesh Cruises, which sailed its first ship Karnika on April 17 last year, is planning to introduce a second vessel by October 2020 following robust demand for cruise tourism in India.

“We witnessed huge demand since Karnika sailed from Mumbai on April 17, 2019. We are witnessing huge growth in bookings. In this calendar year we expect minimum 35-40 per cent growth in bookings from last year,” Jalesh Cruises Strategic Advisor Rajiv Duggal told here on Monday on the sidelines of the launch of world’s first 4-day business-to-business jewellery exhibition on board Karnika from January 6.

He said, in order to cater to this growing demand, the company is planning to launch another vessel by October this year.

“Cruise is also a huge employment generating medium and cruise ships are heavy with crew member. Currently, in Karnika we have 900 crew and we will be adding another 900 with the new vessel,” he said.

As a long term goal, the company is planning to have 4-5 ships in next 5 years, he added.

The growing segments for cruise tourism in the country are wedding, meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) and young independent travellers, he said.

“Destination weddings are now slowly getting extended to cruise as we are witnessing growing interest in the segment and MICE is also a huge segment for us. Young independent travellers are a huge opportunity for us. We are planning to tap all three segments,” he added.

Mumbai Port Trust Chairman Sanjay Bhatia, who was also present on the occasion, said the country is in an exciting phase of the travel and tourism industry and cruise tourism will play a vital role in the sector’s rapid growth.

“We are undertaking several steps towards expansion and swift implementation of initiatives that will significantly boost cruise tourism in India. We are proud of setting a benchmark by being the first in the world to have a jewellery exhibition on board the Karnika cruise,” he added.

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