The Brahmaputra river has witnessed a rise in cruise operations in the past few months, with more cruise operators entering this region.
With international tourists avidly exploring India’s North East region, the mighty Brahmaputra river is turning into a hot destination for cruise operators. According to industry experts, marine tourism has shifted focus from Kolkata (the Ganges) to the North East (Brahmaputra) with a number of new cruises being planned in this region.
“The river here is much more attractive than the Ganges. At every 50km interval, there is a sanctuary or a hill, which makes the place attractive from the tourism perspective. In addition, it is less crowded compared to Kolkata and other tourist places. In Kolkata, accessibility to an island for keeping the vessels is an issue. There are islands available only beyond Farakka where, again, law and order becomes a problem. However, with Brahmaputra, there are no such problems, which makes it ideal for marine tourism. We do see a lot of tourism opportunities coming up in this region in future,” said Arun Roy, director, Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), Guwahati.
The Assam Bengal Navigation Co (ABNC), which operates two vessels on this stretch, is planning to launch a third vessel soon, following a good response from tourists. The company was among the first ones to operate a river cruise service along the Brahmaputra. The high occupancy rate of these cruises further supplements the growing demand for such trips. ABNC has its hands full for the next holiday season between October to December and many people are still on the waiting list.
This is not a single isolated example of booming tourism in this region. Another cruise operator named Brahmaputra Cruise Pvt Ltd launched its first luxury cruise in January 2010. According to IWAI officials, a Delhi-based cruise company will soon launch its services along the Brahmaputra.
Hemanta Doley, director, Brahmaputra Cruise, which is already fully booked for its departures planned in March 2010, said “We are hopeful that this beautiful and unexplored destination will attract more tourists. Within one or two years, more tourists will start touring these destinations. We have started just a month ago and the response is not bad. We also have small vessels which provide the option of offering our services at lower prices.”
Speaking about tourists’ increasing demand for cruise services, Mr Roy said, “If you look at the number of tourists who go to Kolkata, many tourists also want to go to the North East region because of the architectural beauty, the tribes of Nagaland and Shillong’s beauty. These tourists also prefer a trip along the river. Most of the tourists on these cruises are British, with a sizeable number of German and French tourists.”
Echoing a similar point of view, DT Joseph, former secretary, ministry of shipping, said, “Marine tourism is picking up at many places in India. While Kerala and Goa are already booming, the Brahmaputra region is also looking up. Overall, water tourism is picking up and I think in the next two years, it will become big business.”
The price of these cruise packages ranges from $205 to $350 per night.
Out of the 49 sectors, sugar, the hot sector of late 2009, was the worst performer, crashing 22% whereas printing & publishing was down 21%
Between 6 January 2010 and 19 February 2010, Indian markets have been highly volatile for a variety of reasons. There were fears of Indian government ending the stimulus package; sovereign debt problems in Europe; concerns that rising food inflation would force the Indian central bank to push up rates; China’s surprise move to restrict bank lending to cool its economy; and the US Federal Reserve’s surprise move to increase the discount rate. During this period, the Sensex plunged 9% (down almost 1,500 points). But how have the Moneylife sectors suffered in this decline?
Out of the 49 sectors, sugar, the hot sector of late 2009, was the worst performer, crashing 22% whereas printing & publishing was down 21%. Indian government’s move to reduce sugar stock holding limit from 15 days to 10 days for bulk users has triggered a wave of selling in sugar stocks. Also, India needs to urgently import 3-5 million tonnes of white sugar due to tighter supply situation than previous estimates. This has weighed on market sentiments, mainly due to the stronger dollar which is expected to impact margins of the sugar companies.
ML Real Estate sector suffered after the central bank increased the cash reserve ratio by 75 basis points at its quarterly policy review. The sector declined 19% in the above period. Telecom and Office Equipments sectors plunged 13% each.
Telecom sector declined on back of index heavyweight Bharti Airtel’s massive slump following the company’s expensive bid to take over the African assets of Kuwaiti telecom player Zain for $10.70 billion.
Airlines, Energy and Hotels were the next worst-performing sectors as they declined 12%, 11% and 10%, respectively.
Among the best performers was Farm & Farm Inputs (up 10%), gaining massively after the Indian government eased controls on several fertilisers and raised prices of the popular urea nutrient by 10%. This move has now raised hopes of more reforms and lower subsidies in the Union Budget 2010-11 resulting in higher margins for fertiliser producers. Among the other sectors that bucked the downtrend were Healthcare and Paints which were up 2% each.