New Delhi: The launch of the world’s longest river cruise named MV Ganga Vilas by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13 in Varanasi will herald a new age of river cruise tourism for India, said Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Ayush.
The luxury cruise will cover a distance of more than 3,200 km across 27 river systems in five states in India and Bangladesh. The huge untapped potential of river cruises is set to get unlocked with the launch of this service, added Sonowal.
Speaking on the occasion, Sonowal said, “Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we are exploring the immense wealth that our rich river system has to offer”.
Sonowal said, “This avenue of sustainable development via inland waterways has received a tremendous boost as efforts to augment cargo traffic as well as passenger tourism have borne fruit with encouraging results. The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a step towards unlocking the huge potential river tourism the country has to offer”.
“Our rich heritage will get further transcended on the global stage as tourists will be able to experience the spiritual, the educational, the well-being, the cultural as well as the richness of the biodiversity of India,” he added.
“From Kashi to Sarnath, from Majuli to Mayong, from Sunderbans to Kaziranga, this cruise packs an experience of a lifetime. I believe that this wonderful initiative, under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi, is the beginning of a new era in river cruise tourism in India and strengthening our government’s commitment to enabling Act East, both through policy and practice.” Minister said
The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is curated to bring out the best of the country to be showcased to the world. The 51 days cruise is planned with visits to 50 tourist spots including World Heritage Sites, national parks, river ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.
The MV Ganga Vilas vessel is 62 metres in length and 12 meters in width and comfortably sails with a draft of 1.4 meters. It has three decks, and 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists, with all the amenities to provide a memorable and luxurious experience for the tourists. The ship follows sustainable principles at its core as it is equipped with pollution-free mechanisms and noise control technologies.
The maiden voyage of MV Ganga Vilas will witness 32 tourists from Switzerland relishing the Varanasi to Dibrugarh journey. The expected date of arrival of MV Ganga Vilas in Dibrugarh is on March 1, 2023.
The itinerary of MV Ganga Vilas has been curated to showcase the rich heritage of India with stopovers in spots of historical, cultural and religious importance. From the famous “Ganga Arti” in Varanasi, it will stop at Sarnath, a place of great reverence for Buddhism. It will also cover Mayong, known for its Tantric craft, and Majuli, the largest river island and hub of Vaishnavite culture in Assam.
The travellers will also visit the Bihar School of Yoga and Vikramshila University, allowing them to soak in the rich Indian heritage in spirituality and knowledge. The cruise will also traverse through the biodiversity-rich World Heritage Sites of Sunderbans in the Bay of Bengal delta, famous for Royal Bengal Tigers, as well as Kaziranga National Park, famous for one horn rhino.
Highlighting the need to develop river cruise tourism in the country, Union Minister Sonowal said that the development of this sector would generate employment opportunities in the hinterland. The government is making capital expenditures to build capacity for the success of river cruise tourism in the country.
He said the river tourism circuits will be developed and integrated with the existing tourism circuits for maximum exposure and rapid development of this sector in the country.
The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a first-of-its-kind cruise service. With support from the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) under the Ministry of Shipping, Ports and Waterways (MoPSW), the success of this service is likely to enthuse entrepreneurs to explore river cruises in other parts of the country.
The global River cruise market has grown by 5 per cent over the last few years and is expected to constitute 37 per cent of the cruise market by 2027. Europe has been driving growth with approx. 60 per cent share of river cruise vessels in the world. In India, 8 river cruise vessels are operational between Kolkata and Varanasi while cruise movement is also operation on National Waterways 2 (Brahmaputra). Tourism activities like river rafting, camping, sightseeing, kayaking and so on are operated in many spots in the country.
The construction of 10 passenger terminals across NW2 is going on which will further bolster the prospect of a river cruise. At present, four river cruise vessels are operational in NW2 while it is operating in a limited capacity in NW3 (West Coast Canal), NW8, NW 4, NW 87, NW 97, and NW 5. As the capital expenditure is pumped to build capacity in the inland waterways, the river cruise is set to grow further with systematic forward and backward linkage for the economy, especially across the banks of the rivers.