When the ‘Seven Seas Navigator’ called at New Mangalore port on December 8, 2023, it marked the start of a new cruise season that will continue until May.

The New Mangalore Port Authority (NMPA) says it’s been a busy season for cruise tourism so far this year, although it is still nowhere near the pre-Covid high. As against the 21 cruise vessels the port handled during 2019-20, it received eight vessels in the just concluded fiscal 2023-24, marginally higher than the six during 2022-23.

Port officials point out that the arrival of a cruise ship is welcomed all round, as the influx of visitors is anticipated to contribute significantly to the local economy, generating revenue for various sectors, including tourism, hospitality, and transportation.

NMPA Chairman AV Ramana says measures undertaken by the port such as personalised services, cultural engagements, increase in the number of immigration counters from 30 to 45, and collaboration with local travel and hospitality companies have helped it attract more vessels.

Whenever cruise vessels dock at the port, NMPA ropes in hospitality students from the local university to ensure that each and every visitor is attended to personally. This initiative also serves to give the students practical experience in handling international travellers.

By tapping the region’s existing ecosystem of tour, travel and hospitality industries, NMPA makes it a win-win for all, Ramana says. Travellers love the hospitality and personal touch of NMPA, he adds.

The virtual reality booths and traditional cultural performances organised for the visitors help showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region.

To better serve visiting cruise liners, the port plans to augment its infrastructure, including the construction of a dedicated cruise gate, he says.

William D’Souza, owner of Globe Travels in Mangaluru and Vice-President (Finance) of the Monaco-based United Federation of Travel Agents’ Association, says cruise tourism has multiple benefits for the local economy, especially through job creation and revenue generation. He calls for government support and stakeholder collaboration to further develop cruise tourism in the region.