Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (on screen) adopted the river cruise. Also present (from left): Peter Kaufmann and Hans Kaufmann from Thurgau Travel and their business partner Raj Singh (Exotic Heritage Group/Antara Luxury River Cruises).
Jean Claude RaemyEditor Economics
The interest of the Indian media is huge. A few days ago, the longest river cruise in the world started in the country’s spiritual capital, Varanasi. Also on board: 32 passengers. All customers of Thurgau Travel based in Weinfelden TG.
Blick knows: Thurgau Travel has chartered the brand new ship MV Ganga Vilas, which will be used on the trip, for the whole season. “We’ll travel 3,200 kilometers through the entire historical region of Bengal over the course of 51 days via the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and another 25 river systems,” explains company founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors Hans Kaufmann (74) to Blick.
The idea came on the train
The origin of this record in river cruising lies in an air strike. Kaufmann explains: “After a trade fair in 2017, I had to travel back to Switzerland by train from Berlin. I had plenty of time to exchange ideas with my Indian business friend Raj Singh from the Exotic Heritage Group.» The idea of gaining a foothold in India was born.
Thurgau Travel has been doing river cruises in Asia for a long time. However, the ships stationed in Myanmar could not simply be transferred to India. “A new building was needed that corresponded to Indian conditions,” says Kaufmann. So Singh’s company built the MV Ganga Vilas, the first cruise ship built in India. Thurgau Travel has a stake in Singh’s company and thus enjoys certain exclusivities in sales.
support from the state
36 passengers can be accommodated in 18 cabins; A crew of 48 people takes care of their well-being.
But the problem is not the ship’s equipment. Indian rivers struggle with waste, frequent low water and little maintenance. But that is about to change, and cleanup projects are underway throughout the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins, and new waterways are being made navigable.
In order to be able to carry out the “longest river cruise in the world”, the MV Ganga Vilas is nevertheless accompanied by four Indian tugs and, when en route in Bangladesh, by four Bangladeshi tugs. They can help out if the ship gets stuck.
This accompaniment is organized by the state. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (72) himself released the cruise on its big journey. Only with a video appearance – because his mother died shortly before the maiden voyage, he could not be there in person. But his speech had it all: The cruise is nothing less than a “core part of the Indian government’s infrastructure program,” says Modi. He sees river cruises as an important trend that will bring more visitors to the country of 1.4 billion people.
It’s also a first
In addition to prominent politicians, hundreds of Indians were there to send the 32 Swiss tourists to Varanasi on their long journey. “Television and countless journalists were present,” explains Kaufmann.
Ultimately, this river cruise is also a pioneering act. According to Kaufmann, only cargo ships have operated on various stretches of the river, especially on the Brahmaputra, but never a passenger ship. The small Swiss company is preparing to write tourism history in India.