Diverse range: high sea sailing (cruise to nowhere) to uber luxury Polar/round-the-world cruises.
MUMBAI – The Indian travel landscape is witnessing a rapid evolution. Thomas Cook India & SOTC’s India Holiday Report 2023 highlights unique trends – including a 70% surge in cruise holidays/sea-cations. To capitalise on this significant potential, Thomas Cook (India) Limited, India’s leading omnichannel travel services company and its Group Company, SOTC Travel, have launched an extensive range of Cruise Holidays: from short cruise getaways/weekenders, river cruises, Polar cruises (Arctic/Antarctica), round-the-world cruises and more. The Companies intend to target their diverse range of segments – across Leisure, Corporate, B-Leisure and MICE.
Cruises represent a unique value proposition for Indians: an all-inclusive holiday with an array of gastronomic options; without the hassle of multiple check-in/check-out and transfers. Cruises offer an exciting diversity of onboard entertainment: Broadway shows/gala events, casino/ nightclubs; play zones for children; sports & adventure activities like rock climbing, zip lining and water sports; learning snorkeling/scuba diving; also, shopping and rejuvenating options like spa-wellness. Extensive world-class dining options include cafes and buffets to multi-gourmet restaurants. With shore excursions at ports of call, cruises also allow for exploration of unique locales.
Thomas Cook and SOTC’s consumer data reveals a stark contrast in Indian consumer trends. While globally cruising is predominantly a market for senior citizens, it is Young India’s Gen Z, millennials and young working professionals that are displaying strong appetite for cruises (over 80% vs. pre pandemic). A combination of factors has increased the appeal for this younger demography: an expanded portfolio of sailings in South/S.E Asia – Middle East, range of high adrenaline activities onboard and affordable price points coupled with easy access to financial models.
Domestic sailings have seen rapid revival post pandemic: Thomas Cook & SOTC have emerged as top sellers of India cruises (Cordelia), with over 8000 customers booked since travel restart.
Additionally, India presents a significant opportunity with its diversity of river-scapes. The companies have curated unique river cruise + land products: Antara cruises (from Kolkata); also Ganga river cruises like MV Ganga Vilas to explore exceptional routes from Varanasi to the North East. Kerala’s backwater cruises are also in high demand – offering a relaxed/leisurely experience amidst nature.
The Government of India aims at positioning India as a global cruise hub with state-of-art infrastructure for both ocean and river cruises. This is expected to further fuel the growth of the segment.
International cruises have been witnessing accelerated uptick from the India market. To maximize on this demand, Thomas Cook and SOTC were the first to launch an unbeatable offer – a complimentary 3-night premium European cruise experience (Barcelona, Savona, and Marseille) on select European tours – over 1500 passengers booked this summer.
The Companies’ range of international cruises include short haul options like, Costa Toscana voyages (starting December) to the UAE, Oman, Doha; Resorts World Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises (Singapore; Hong Kong); mid to long haul destinations onboard Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian cruises in Europe (Greece, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Portugal, The Canary Islands and Scandinavia’s fjords). Cruises in the Americas include: Alaskan and Mexican Revieria sailings of the Norwegian Cruise Line.
Thomas Cook & SOTC’s data reflects increased consumer appetite for premium and uber luxury cruises such as Antarctica’s ice-breaker sailings on PONANT that offer an exceptional polar expedition experience; also luxury river cruises like Avalon Waterways.
The India Corporate MICE market is a powerful demand driver for cruises – for reward/recognition incentive programs, CXO meetings, milestone celebratory events and networking engagements. Thomas Cook & SOTC have successfully managed a range of MICE movements of between 50 to over 600 corporates each; with a robust pipeline for the year ahead.
The companies’ Digital First strategy has seen delivery of an end-to-end online cruise booking platform: empowering customers with the choice to select from a range of cruises/cabins/offers with real-time availability.
Mr. Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head – Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited said, “At Thomas Cook India we are bullish on the cruise opportunity and are witnessing a strong 60% YoY surge in demand. What is noteworthy is that we are seeing appetite across consumer segments from young India’s Gen Z /millennials, couples, multigenerational families and Corporate MICE. There is an increased preference for luxury experiences and higher categories like ocean-view cabins and suites. Our extensive cruise holidays portfolio offers a diversity of products to suit every consumer preference and price-point and we look forward to welcoming our customers onboard!”.
Mr. Daniel D’souza President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel Limited said, “Cruise Holidays offer Indians a perfect all-inclusive holiday – onboard a luxurious floating hotel. Our extensive portfolio of Cruise Holidays offers a wide range of cruise experiences, from entertainment and exciting activities, diverse cuisines, wellness-spa, shopping, to exploring new and exotic locales. We are witnessing strong growth emerging from Regional India’s tier 2-3 markets; this is in addition to metros and mini-metros. Our forward pipeline highlights the strong potential for Cruise Holidays and with our extensive partnerships we look to introduce exciting new sailings in the coming months!”.
Ms. Nalini Gupta, Managing Director Lotus Aero Enterprises, GSA Costa Cruise India, said, “We are excited to launch the Costa Serena India domestic sailings programme for Indian travellers in Nov & Dec 2023, bringing international cruising at the very doorstep of an Indian guest. The cruise market in India is poised to experience significant growth over the next 5 years and we are very happy to be partnering with Thomas Cook Group for our repertoire of sailings within India, Middle East & Europe.
Μr. Varun Chadha, CEO, TIRUN said, “Our Association with Thomas Cook and SOTC, goes back nearly 30 years. Together we have introduced many destinations to the Indian consumer, from the Bahamas and Caribbean to Alaska, closer to home in Singapore, and the ever favourite Mediterranean. We are very excited as newer ships and newer experiences in private islands, are coming into our fleet across all our brands, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, SilverSeas and Azamara too, and to present these to Thomas Cook and SOTC’s customers. We are also excited about like-minded travel groups and the MICE segment along with continuing to grow repeat cruisers, as we open up the world.
Further we rely on their packaged tour business and hope to continue to work with them, with all their experience and expertise to grow this side of the business, as this is a great way for new to international/ cruise customers to become our advocates.”
Julie Roger, Director of Sales, Asia Pacific said, “PONANT’s association with SOTC and Thomas Cook India has proven crucial over the years in establishing a solid foothold in the Indian subcontinent. As global leaders in Luxury Polar Expedition, this partnership has enabled excellent business outcomes for PONANT in India and an exceptional customer experience. The impact is evident in this ongoing and ever-growing collaboration for journeys across the Arctic, Antarctica, Japan, Africa, and so much more between the two poles.”
Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO of Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt Ltd, Cordelia Cruises, said, “We are thrilled to witness the growing enthusiasm for cruising among travelers across segments. Our partnership aims to provide travellers with unparalleled experiences onboard the luxurious Empress, where they may embark on a journey filled with excitement, adventure and rejuvenation. At Cordelia Cruises, we recognise the value of creating cherished memories with loved ones and our diverse portfolio of Cruise Holidays promises to cater to every guest’s unique preferences. From exploring captivating destinations to venturing to new and exotic ports, we offer a delightful array of experiences that will surely captivate all hearts. With the collective expertise and commitment of Cordelia Cruises, Thomas Cook India, and SOTC Travel, we look forward to elevating the cruising experience and inviting travellers to embark on an extraordinary journey at sea.”
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.