To further boost its cruise tourism initiatives, Cochin Port Trust has mooted a proposal with the Southern Railways for operating train services hauled by Heritage Steam Loco from the Harbour Terminus.
One service can be started from Willingdon Island to Ernakulam and the other from Vallarpadam Terminal through the longest railway bridge in the country (4.62 km) across the backwaters. “We have made a request to the Railways and the response was positive. Many foreign tourists are still fascinated about the train hauled by steam locomotive and the commencement of such service will definitely put Kochi on the global cruise tourism map, P Goutam Gupta, the port’s Traffic Manager, said.
Copter service: The port has also asked tour operators to explore the possibility of starting a helicopter service connecting Munnar, Thekkady, Jatayu Park etc so that tourists can see these exotic places which otherwise are remaining out of reach of the cruise tourists as travel by road takes a lot of time. Incidentally, majority of the ships stay at the port for 10-12 hours. A helicopter service was successfully operated in the recently concluded Kerala Travel Mart 2018, he said.
“Travellers seek new experiences at exotic destinations and patronage depends largely on the past experience and a variety of options made available to explore the destination. Since cruise calling is driven by passenger experience, the initiatives will go a long way in showcasing Kerala and Kochi, the Queen of the Arabian Sea before foreign tourists,” he told.
Cruise facilities: Anticipating a boom in the cruise tourism this season, the port is offering modern facilities for cruise liners that calls on the port on a regular basis. The first vessel Boudicca with 500 passengers from Goa will be anchoring at the port October 14 to coincide with the commencement of the peak tourism season in Kerala.
The port has made elaborate arrangements to handle cruise ships as it is expected that 50 cruise liners will call in 2018-19 season compared to 42 last year. The number of tourists is also expected to go up to 80,000 from the last year figure of 47,700.
Samudrika, the 1,800 sq ft air-conditioned hall will continue to act as Cruise Passenger Facilitation Centre. Considering the demand and the need to accommodate more number of ships with larger size this season, the port has also made temporary arrangements in Ernakulam wharf by setting up 3000 sq ft air conditioned tents with emigration, baggage and toilet facilities for passengers. There will be a prepaid taxi counter for the tourists who wish to go for sight seeing tours. The port has conducted capacity building training programme to taxi drivers to make them responsible tourism chauffeur in association with District Tourism Promotion Council and the Kerala government’s Responsible Tourism Mission.
Display of arts: Besides showcasing Kerala’s art forms, there will be a Singari melam (percussion performance) by lady artistes as the arrival of the first cruise vessel of the season will coincide with the Durga Puja and Navaratri festival to celebrate empowered woman. The port is also working with Kerala IT Mission to offer free Wi-Fi to cruise passengers. Once it is ready, Kochi will be the first port in the country to provide such a facility for tourists.