Hyderabad: In a bid to promote coastal tourism, Gujarat government is contemplating to introduce a cruise liner service between Mumbai and Porbandar by the end of this year, a senior Tourism department official said.

The plan is to introduce a cruise ship, to be run by a private operator, which will take tourists from Mumbai to Porbandar and Kutch as part of a 3-day package, Gujarat principal secretary (Tourism and Civil Aviation) Vipul Mittra told reporters here.

"We are hopeful that by this winter it (cruise ship connectivity) will start. Gujarat has the longest coastline of 1,600 km. We have identified 17 beaches along the coastline and our focus is to develop coastal tourism in these places and make Gujarat a coastal tourism destination," he said.

Planning Commission chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has sanctioned Rs 120 crore to develop coastal tourism in Gujarat and the funds will be utilised to create on-shore facilities and related activities, Mittra said.

As part of the policy to promote cruise tourism, cruise vessels will be given berthing priority and no port fee will be collected from cruise liners for docking at the state's ports, he said.

Meanwhile, Gujarat government has begun the process of upgrading 12 airports for night flying operations, enabling private operators to start intra-state flights, Mittra, who had come here for an event, informed.

Sales Tax on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) has also been reduced to 3 per cent from 28 per cent to encourage private sector participants to start intra-state flights, he said. Around 2.75 crore tourists visited Gujarat during 2012-13 and the state is expecting a total inflow of 3.25 crore tourists by March 2014, he said adding, the state was also toying with the idea of chopper services for tourists.

"Apart from mass tourists, we want to attract high-end tourists to Gujarat. After the launch of promotional campaign involving Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, the state has seen a 400 percent increase in terms of number of tourists visiting places like Rann of Kutch," Mittra said.

(Agencies)

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