Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the world's longest river cruise with MV Ganga Vilas on January 13 from Varanasi. This was informed by Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
According to the Minister, the luxury cruise will cover a distance of more than 3,200 kms across 27 river systems in 5 states in India and Bangladesh.
"Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we are exploring the immense wealth that our rich river system has to offer. This avenue of sustainable development via inland waterways has received a tremendous boost as efforts to augment cargo traffic as well as passenger tourism have borne fruit with encouraging results. The MV Ganga Vilas cruise is a step towards unlocking the huge potential river tourism in the country has to offer," Sonowal said.
The Minister exuded confidence that the country's rich heritage will get further transcended in the global stage as tourists will be able to experience the spiritual, the educational, the well-being, the cultural as well as the richness of the biodiversity of India.
"From Kashi to Sarnath, from Majuli to Mayong, from Sunderbans to Kaziranga, this cruise packs an experience of a lifetime. I believe that this wonderful initiative, under the guidance of Prime Minister Modi ji, is the beginning of a new era in river cruise tourism in India and strengthening our government's commitment to enabling Act East, both through policy and practice," he said.
According to an official statement, the 51 days cruise is planned with visits to 50 tourist spots including World Heritage Sights, National Parks, river Ghats, and major cities like Patna in Bihar, Sahibganj in Jharkhand, Kolkata in West Bengal, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Guwahati in Assam.
"The MV Ganga Vilas vessel is 62 meters in length, 12 meters in width and comfortably sails with a draft of 1.4 meters. It has three decks, 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists, with all the amenities to provide a memorable and luxurious experience for the tourists," the statement said.
"The ship follows sustainable principles at its core as it is equipped with pollution-free mechanisms and noise control technologies. The maiden voyage of MV Ganga Vilas will witness 32 tourists from Switzerland relishing the Varanasi to Dibrugarh journey. The expected date of arrival of MV Ganga Vilas in Dibrugarh is on 1st March, 2023," it added.
The itinerary of MV Ganga Vilas has been curated to showcase the rich heritage of India with stopovers in spots of historical, cultural and religious importance.
The statement further said that the MV Ganga Vilas will stop at Sarnath from the famous "Ganga Arti" in Varanasi.
"It will also cover Mayong, known for its Tantric craft, and Majuli, the largest river island and hub of Vaishnavite culture in Assam. The travelers will also visit the Bihar School of Yoga and Vikramshila University, allowing them to soak in the rich Indian heritage in spirituality and knowledge. The cruise will also traverse through the biodiversity-rich World Heritage Sites of Sunderbans in Bay of Bengal delta, famous for Royal Bengal Tigers, as well as Kaziranga National Park, famous for one horn rhino," the statement said.
Highlighting the need to develop river cruise tourism in the country, Sonowal said that the development of this sector would generate employment opportunity in the hinterland.
"The government is making capital expenditure to build capacity for the success of river cruise tourism in the country. He said the river tourism circuits will be developed and integrated with the existing tourism circuits for maximum exposure and rapid development of this sector in the country," he said.
According to the statement, the global River cruise market has grown at ~5 per cent over the last few years and is expected to constitute ~37 per cent of cruise market by 2027. Europe has been driving growth with approx. 60 per cent share of river cruise vessels in the world.
"In India, 8 river cruise vessels are operational between Kolkata and Varanasi while cruise movement is also operation on National Waterways 2 (Brahmaputra). Tourism activities like river rafting, camping, sightseeing, kayaking and so on are operation in many spots in the country. The construction of 10 passengers terminals across NW2 are going on which will further bolster the prospect of river cruise. At present, four river cruise vessels are operational in NW2 while it is operating in limited capacity in NW3 (West Coast Canal), NW8, NW 4, NW 87, NW 97, and NW 5," the statement said.
(with inputs from ANI)