BD poised to enter global ocean cruise map, ushers in new era in tourism industry

By Raquib Siddiqi 16 Feb, 2017  |    -      +
Dhaka : Bangladesh tourism is now at the threshold of a new era. The country is poised to enter global ocean cruise map, ushering the new era in tourism industry.

The opportunity for exposing Bangladesh, to sea cruising will come, from a planned operation of international cruise company-Silver Sea Cruise- and include Bangladesh in its existing itinerary. Local tour operator Journey Plus is working with different concerned government departments and agencies to make the plan happen.

If everything goes as planned, for the year 2017, Bangladesh will be visited by two cruise trips of Silver Sea Cruise Line. The inaugural visit of the cruise ship -Silver Discoverer- is scheduled to arrive Bangladesh on February 22 and the second one, which can be termed as return one on March 1.

The voyage is titled Colombo to Kolkata Asia Expedition Cruise, and starts from Colombo in Sri Lanka on February 11 and end in Kolkata, after 16 days.

After spending nine days in Colombo, Galle, Kirinda and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka and Andaman Islands in India, the Silver Discoverer will enter Bangladesh waters through the Bay of Bengal and arrive Maheshkhali Island in Cox's Bazar on the 12th day of the trip on February 22.

Rural Bangladesh and local community will be the main tourist attractions at Maheshkhali part of the visit.

Staying overnight at Maheshkhali, the Silver Discoverer will move to the Subdarbans and stop at Hiron Point and Kokilmoni. After overnight stay, the cruise will move to Charaputia and Harbaria.

After cruising and sightseeing inside the Sundarbans with the help of local guides and forest Rangers, on the 15th day of the trip, the Silver Discoverer will leave Bangladesh territory for Kolkata.

The second cruise trip to Bangladesh will touch the same spots from opposite direction. On the first of March, the Silver Discover will arrive Harbaria in the Sundarbans from Kolkata and later move to Kokilmoni and Hiron Point. On March 3, the cruise will move to Maheshkhali. From Maheshkhali the Silver Discoverer will depart Bangladesh for Phuket in Thailand via Yangon in Myanmar.

Arrangements have been made to extend Immigration and Customs services on board at the port of entry. Immigration and Customs from Cox's Bazar and Mongla will be responsible for the job.

It may be recalled that the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism held an inter-ministerial meeting involving the foreign, home, forest and shipping ministries as well as with officials of Customs, Immigration and Coast Suard in May last year, to facilitate operation of ocean cruise liners.

Another meeting of the concerned departments and agencies of the government as well as stakeholders was held this year (2017) on January 5. Taufiq Rahman, CEO of Journey Plus, the tour operator that is taking all the initiative, to include Bangladesh on the cruise map, informed that the meeting decided to arrange boarder formalities onboard, to facilitate operation of cruise in the country.

Taufiq said there would be 95 tourists on board the first trip and 66 on the second. The number of the member of the crew will be more than double of the number of tourists. Most of the tourists are from the USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

It may be mentioned that, a team from the cruise liner visited Bangladesh earlier on a scouting mission about the proposed operation. The job of the mission was to determine port of entry, sightseeing and security matters.

The start

Global cruise tourism started as a destination for elite, exotic, even opulent adventurers. It maintains an image of grandness of pleasure and place. It has become a favourite destination for millions of travellers. It has become one of the fastest growing destinations of global travel and tourism.

It is making it possible for travellers to have all of their wishes fulfilled. It offers more choices for more travellers at once than most likely any other destination. It is a destination that, uniquely, is making special efforts to take the hassle out of international travel experiences.

For over 20 million travellers in 2013, it was the perfect travel destination. Yet, it is not actually a destination at all. Not in the classical 'place on a map' sense. Instead it is a place that moves from place to place, taking with it travellers making it a second home, for a short while.

And it is set to be charting the way for tourists and tourism, for the next decade.

Exceptional success

Taking the advantage of strong tailwinds, today, global cruise travel represents one of the fastest growing sub-segments within the greater travel and tourism industry. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents over sixty member lines, has 2014 projections reaching an estimated 21.7 million guests worldwide across its membership base. Continued growth of the segment has made it necessary to bring an additional 24 new ships onto the seas in the 2014-2015 period, which equates to capex of an estimated US$8 billion in ocean and river cruise categories.

The leading cruise destination in terms of ship deployments remains the Caribbean, accounting for 37.3 per cent of all global itineraries followed by the Mediterranean (18.9 per cent), Northern Europe (11.1 per cent), Australia/New Zealand (5.9 per cent), Alaska (4.5 per cent), Asia (4.4 per cent) and South America 3.3 per cent). In 2014, markets experiencing increased ship deployments include the Caribbean (+12 per cent), Northern Europe (+5.2 per cent), Asia (+31.6 per cent) and Australasia at +22 per cent."

Why the strong growth?

Several reasons, ranging from ease of travel -'just unpack once' regardless of number of countries/stops on the itinerary--, all-inclusivity of offers (eliminating surprises, though this is a point of debate regarding real economic impact to destinations visited), and overall product appeal (literally seeing the world from a new perspective).

Cruise tourism acts as another valuable travel proposition bringing the people of the world closer together through connection of wishes and waterways.

Bangladesh is the only country in the region, which this far remained out of cruise map.

So, impending cruise seems to be very important for the future of cruise tourism in Bangladesh.

If Bangladesh can extend quality and efficient Immigration, Customs and other services, to the tourist onboard, that will be good for the expansion of the industry. Efficient handling of the whole operation will encourage Silver sen Cruise Line to expand its operation and others to include Bangladesh in their itinerary.

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