The Ministry of Tourism is working towards attracting five million cruise tourists to India by 2040, Union Minister of State for Tourism K.J. Alphons has said.

He was speaking after laying the foundation stone for a Rs. 25.72-crore cruise ship terminal spread over 2,253 square metres and equipped to handle 5,000 tourists at a time, here on Saturday.

“India’s tourism sector records an annual growth of 15.6% as compared to the global average of 5%. Visitors to India, which has a history dating back to 5,000 years, leave with a new outlook. The Centre will provide all help to enable more cruise ships to call at the Kochi Port,” Mr. Alphonse said.

The upcoming terminal will be the second in Kochi, and it will have the capacity to berth and handle cruise vessels and will be bigger than the existing one. It is slated for commissioning in February 2020. The estimated cost of construction is Rs. 25.72 crore, of which Rs. 21.41crore will be provided as grant by the Ministry of Tourism.

The facilities proposed at the terminal include passenger lounge, crew lounge, 30 immigration counters, eight customs clearance counters, seven security check counters, tourist information counter, duty-free shops, bank services, foreign exchange counter, and cafeteria. Each year, over 10,000 high-end guests, most of them from developed countries, arrive in Kochi in over 40 cruise ships.

Each of them spends nearly $400 during their day’s stopover. The Kochi Port permits sellers of handicrafts and other items to set up stalls at the existing berthing terminal.

Central funds

‘The new terminal will be built at the Ernakulam Wharf, where ships that are over 260 metres in length can be berthed. Tourism funds from the Centre worth Rs. 4.61 crore have been allotted to develop Samudrika, the existing cruise facilitation centre.

Speaking on the occasion, Mayor Soumini Jain said the port had assured all help for the construction of a rail overbridge at Vathuruthy near the port. In his address, Hibi Eden, MLA, called for the release of Central tourism funds for developing the Marine Drive walkway as the Gateway of Kochi.

Central and State funds worth Rs. 9 crore are now being used to develop a 2.10-km-long walkway between Kannangat bridge and the Mattancherry BOT bridge.

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