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March 16th, 2007, 01:13 PM
Asian nations push for more exposure in cruise market
By ADRIAN SAINZ
14 March 2007
MIAMI BEACH, Florida (AP) - The Port of Shanghai is getting a new cruise passenger terminal. Southeast Asian nations are teaming up on a Web site for cruise travelers. Officials from China are using the 2008 Olympics to promote a triangle of northern cruise ports.
Asia is cruising's new frontier.
Representatives from the Asia-Pacific region this week began an aggressive marketing campaign with the goal of making Asia a competitor in the world cruise market. In town for the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference, many toured ports in Miami and Port Everglades to get a sense of U.S. port operations.
"Asia is blooming, maybe because people are too familiar with the south Caribbean or South America, and you know Europe is too expensive," said Michael C.Y. Chang, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York. "Most of the countries in Asia are in a very good shape and it's reasonable in cost and it has major wonders and culture."
Today, the Asia-Pacific region lags behind the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska as a cruise destination. But Asian officials say there is long-term growth potential for a region with improving ports and alluring destinations. They predict that cruising in the region will grow 40 percent to 1.5 million passengers in 2010.
Infrastructure is mentioned as a major obstacle for ship and passenger capacity, with many ports falling short of having adequate transportation in and out of port facilities. Security, deployment costs and marketing to Asian travelers are other challenges.
The world's largest two cruise operators, Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises, are establishing a presence in Asia. Carnival Corp.'s Costa Cruises already offers Asia-Pacific vacations on the Costa Allegra, and Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas will become the largest ship in the region when it deploys in December. Both ships will target Asia as a source market.
Colin Veitch, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Cruises Group, said Star Cruises, which sails in the Asia-Pacific region, has seen bureaucratic issues related to cruising in China and a reluctance of Asians to take trips longer than two or three days.
"From listening to what goes on out there, I know Star's operation is somewhat different, very localized, and is concentrated on very short cruises," Veitch said. "The Asian domestic market appears to be really quite small in terms of what we understand of a cruise vacation. My personal view is, I think it's going to take some time for that to develop."
The Port of Shanghai is addressing some infrastructure concerns by investing in a terminal to hold three 80,000-gross-ton cruise ships and 1 million passengers per day. Shanghai's busy port already is served by Costa, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, which fall under the umbrella of Carnival Corp.
"Cruises are quite new to the Chinese people, so it's important for us to educate the public about the cruise ship lifestyle," said Chen Xuyuan, president of the Shanghai International Port Group.
The port of Tianjin is billed as the gateway to Beijing, which will host the 2008 Summer Olympics. Two other north China ports, Dalian and Qingdao, are set to have new cruise terminals within the next three years.
China is working closely with Korea and Japan to boost cruise travel in northeast Asia.
Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, collaborated on a Web site to promote the Southeast Asian cruise industry, which is predicted to grow 5 percent per year until 2020, to about 820,000 passengers. The site directs users to a site for each ASEAN country and gives executives access to port information.
The ASEAN Cruise Working Group also plans to train travel agents on cruising, pursue infrastructure development and build relationships with the cruise industry, said chairman Kevin Leong.
Taiwan had just 24,000 cruise passengers last year and does not have direct sailings to China because of political issues. However, it would like to increase its exposure to cruise passengers by targeting source markets of the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau, said Kuo Su Tsan-Yang, deputy general of Taiwan Tourism Bureau.
Another company in the region is Seabourn Cruise Line, which services ports in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and elsewhere. Peter Cox, Seabourn's director of itinerary planning and development, cites security as a concern for cruise lines looking at the Asia-Pacific market.
Bombings in Bali and incidents in the Philippines have led Seabourn to stop sailing to Indonesia and the Philippines for now.
That said, there is "tremendous" potential for growth in Asia, but not right away, Cox said.
June 20th, 2007, 10:41 AM
Carnival Corp. hopes for improvement in China cruise market after slow start
19 June 2007
MIAMI (AP) - Asian tourists are taking to cruises slower than Carnival Corp. thought, but there are signs of progress, chief operating officer Howard Frank said Tuesday.
Frank said Carnival's only Asian cruise ship, the 800-passenger Costa Allegra, was expected to show improvement in sales in the second half of this year after poor business in the first half.
Carnival is learning how to properly market cruise vacations to entice Chinese travelers, while also adjusting itineraries to offer longer Asian cruise vacations to European and North American travelers.
But an expansion of passenger capacity in the region may be a year or two away, Frank said.
"It looks like we're going to have to build the Chinese market a little slower than we thought," Frank said.
The Asian cruise market has plenty of potential due to the region's growing spending power, improving ports and exotic destinations. Asian travel officials have predicted that cruising will grow 40 percent to 1.5 million passengers in 2010 in the region.
The Costa Allegra sails between Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea. Royal Caribbean's 1,998-passenger Rhapsody of the Seas will become the largest ship in the region when it begins its deployment in late November.
However, the market is still in its infancy, and cruise operators face challenges with building demand because of the average Asian traveler's lack of familiarity with the all-in cruise vacation. Other obstacles mentioned include poor infrastructure, security and high deployment costs.
Officials from China are using the 2008 Olympics to promote a triangle of northern cruise ports, and the Port of Shanghai is investing in a 300,000-square-foot terminal to handle three cruise ships.
"We need to be in Asia," Frank said.
Carnival competitor Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., has announced it will start sailing in Asia in December.
July 11th, 2007, 05:46 AM
Golden weeks 'may act as brake'
6 July 2007
South China Morning Post
The mainland cruise business could start to take off by 2009 or 2010 but the three annual "golden weeks" and a lack of long vacations could stand in the way, an industry insider says.
"You will start to see spectacular growth," said Massimo Brancaleoni, vice-president of Costa Crociere's Asia-Pacific operations. "My hope is that this will happen in two or three years' time."
But increasing this market depended on the co-operation of the government and travel trade, he said.
Cruise operators are keen to develop the burgeoning mainland market by capitalising on an expanding population of wealthy young travellers. Tourism accounts for almost 14 per cent of the economy, exceeding the 10.3 per cent global average.
Next year, the 130,000 sq metre Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal is expected to be fully operational. Its 880-metre wharf will be able to accommodate three 70,000 to 80,000 gross tonne liners. Several infrastructure projects in Shanghai are due for completion in time for the World Expo in 2010.
Genoa-based Costa Crociere is the first international cruise operator authorised to offer itineraries, with ships departing from mainland ports. Its 1,000-passenger Costa Allegra is the only ship in its 12-strong fleet to serve Asia, operating from Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong.
Mr Brancaleoni warned restricting mainland holidays to three "golden week" periods was a problem. The industry relies on year-round business and this "high seasonality" means holiday travel peaks during the "golden weeks".
But mainland authorities have recently said "golden weeks" may be cancelled and annual leave introduced for workers instead.
Mr Brancaleoni said marketing Asian cruises longer than six or seven days to mainlanders was often difficult because of the relatively few vacation days.
November 16th, 2007, 05:48 AM
Asia sets sail
16 November 2007
The Wall Street Journal Asia
In Asia, cruising is on the rise.
Part of the draw is the region's growing cache of affluent consumers. But cruise companies also are catering to a growing demand for Asia as a destination for tourists from elsewhere.
"The big names are starting to look at Asia" not just as a place to cruise around, but to base "significant vessels in the region," says Kevin Schellack, managing director of Italy-based MSC Cruises.
MSC Cruises doesn't yet have a ship based in Asia, but says the number of passengers from Asia on cruises it runs outside the region grew 66% in the first six months of 2007, compared with the year-earlier period. Costa Crociere, the Italian branch of U.S.-based Carnival Cruise Lines, opened an office in Shanghai last year to launch its Asia operations. And high-end company Silversea Cruises, which is headquartered in Monaco, recently opened a regional office in Singapore.
At luxury-liner Crystal Cruises of Japan, at least 11% of its guests this year came from Asia, up four times from last year. Company spokeswoman Mimi Weisband says that "Asia is definitely on the rise as a cruise destination for us." This year, the company's liner, Crystal Symphony, began visiting Hong Kong and China following a two-year absence.
Some ships are even getting a makeover. Earlier this year, to accommodate customers in China, Costa added mahjong tables on its 1,000-passenger liner, the Allegra, after guests asked for them. It also hired about 140 Mandarin-speaking crew members.
The region's cities are gearing up to host more cruises, too. There's a newly refurbished ship terminal in Singapore, and the government has set up a $6.9 million fund to develop the cruise industry there. Shanghai and Hong Kong also have plans to open new passenger terminals for cruise liners in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
The market, while growing, is still small. Currently, the region represents just 5% of the international cruise market, according to Costa. But the number of Asian passengers is projected to grow to 1.5 million in 2010 from about 1.1 million in 2005, according to the London-based Ocean Shipping Consultants.
One barrier companies face is that cruising is a relatively new concept in Asia. "People know what is a ferry . . . But the experience (of a cruise) doesn't exist," says Massimo Brancaleoni, vice president of Costa's Pacific Asia operations. Even so, Costa, which currently runs one ship in Asia, has big plans to launch more ships in the region, says Mr. Brancaleoni. "We are here to stay."
This Hong Kong-based company has been operating for about 14 years and offers a lot of day cruises. It also makes trips to Southeast Asia and Japan. A day cruise around Hong Kong starts at $56. www.starcruises.com
The company emphasizes family-oriented activities. Its vessel sails between Hong Kong, Shanghai, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea. Full fare for a five-day round-trip from Hong Kong to Vietnam starts at $390 a person. www.costacruisesasia.com
Both of the company's luxury liners will ply the region next year. Fares start at $10,130 a person for a 12-day trip from Hong Kong to Singapore, with stops in Vietnam and Thailand. www.crystalcruises.com
This luxury cruise company offers nine-day journeys with stops in Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Japan. Fares for a nine-day trip that begins in Hong Kong and ends in Singapore start at $6,195 a person. www.silversea.com
January 17th, 2008, 05:55 AM
Luxury cruise liners chase rosy horizons across Asian seas
HONG KONG, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Beneath the giant shadow of a towering cruise liner, a mix of elderly European and American tourists stand admiring Hong Kong's iconic harbour.
About to embark on their dream cruise, the group are pioneering what analysts predict will become a hot new travel trend: seeing Asia from the water, with spas, luxury shops, casinos and swimming pools by your side.
"We're spoilt," laughed Donna Dana, an American who flew in from Connecticut with her husband for a 12-day, pan-Asian cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's "Rhapsody of the Seas".
With draws like southern Thailand's idyllic oceans, emerald limestone peaks studding Vietnam's Halong Bay, and famed port cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Hanoi, the industry is predicting a boom in Asian cruising, as tourists look beyond global hotspots like the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
"We find (Asia) interesting and we've done the Caribbean ... I think Asian cruises are extremely hot, there were actually quite a few we looked at that were already sold out," Dana added.
The World Cruise Shipping Industry estimates the number of cruise passengers in Asia will jump 40 percent from 1.07 million in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2010, fuelled in part by Asia's growing affluence and improved flight options to regional port cities.
Given the rosy outlook, mega-vessels like "Rhapsody of the Seas" -- 279 metres long with beds for 2,400 people -- have increasingly plyed Asian waters, using places like Singapore and Hong Kong as seasonal homeports.
"We are very pleased with our results, all our sailings out of Singapore are completely sold out, our long cruises out of Hong Kong have sold pretty well," said Rama Rebbapragada, the Asia-Pacific Managing Director for Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world's second largest cruise operator, which owns the Rhapsody.
ASIAN ROYAL TREATMENT
Rebbapragada expects double-digit growth in Asia for the next three years -- quite a turnaround for a region long ranked as a minnow in the North American-dominated global cruising market.
In 2009 his company will bring in a second cruise liner to service China, where six of eight sailings from Shanghai have already been chartered out to Chinese corporate clients.
"We've seen healthy growth in the China market for our cruises now," he said.
"The sheer size of the India and China markets means these are the two markets any supply is going to focus on."
Another major player, Genoa-based cruise operator Costa Crociere already has one seasonally-based vessel posted in Asia, and plans to post a second in the region in 2009.
Star Cruises, Asia's leading cruise operator, run by Malaysia's Genting Group, also plans to boost its Asian fleet.
While cruising "remains a novelty" for most Asians, there have been signs of change as affluent Asians pursue western lifestyle trends and the concept of "relaxed luxury" which cruises embody, said Hong Kong's Commissioner for Tourism Au King-chi.
"For the average Asian, I think it could be a way to get away from the hustle and bustle of routine everyday life, even I suppose short trips to Taiwan or Vietnam," said John Yam, a Hong Kong born physician who's been on 16 cruises.
"For myself I like the royal treatment and not having to pack and unpack every night," Yam added, his wife by his side.
With more ships on the horizon, port cities across Asia are upgrading their cruise infrastructure to tap the burgeoning market potential.
Hong Kong, already a major Asian tourist destination with over 28 million tourists last year, plans to build a new cruise terminal in 2012 in a bid to become a regional cruise hub.
The terminal is expected to generate economic benefits of up to $282 million per annum by 2020, and will be large enough to accommodate the world's largest cruise liner, Project Genesis, which will be finished in late 2009.
But some passengers said Hong Kong was already losing out to regional competitors like Singapore which has a specialised cruise centre opposite Sentosa island, and Shanghai which will soon inaugurate a brand-new cruise terminal on the north bund.
"Hong Kong is a spot for people to visit other attractions in the region, but they need to improve on their port facilities," said Yam, the veteran cruise aficionado.
July 10th, 2009, 06:07 PM
Royal Caribbean queues up for Middle East business
29 June 2009
ROYAL Caribbean is the latest cruise company to look at building up an operation in the Middle East, with plans to operate turnarounds out of Dubai from January next year with Brilliance of the Seas.
That will mean 32,000 passengers will visit the region during the vessel’s inaugural four-month season. The Middle Eastern cruise market is estimated to be worth $100m.
However, the market still has a long way to go in terms of growth, with the majority of passengers coming from traditional Western markets. Royal Caribbean is obviously keen to build the local passenger market and plans to tweak its offering on Brilliance of the Sea to cater for the tastes of Arab passengers.
Regional cruise passenger numbers have grown by 62% in the last two years and the number of Middle Eastern passengers taking cruises around the world reached record levels in 2008. Royal Caribbean is looking not only to encourage the development of a local cruise market, but also to encourage Arab customers to take cruises in traditional markets such as Europe and the Caribbean.
Increasing the number of Arab passengers in traditional cruise markets is an “immediate business objective”, said company vice-president Michael Bayley.
There is already a strong Middle East passenger profile on Mediterranean cruises and the company is hoping to boost Middle Eastern take-up on Asian cruises on Legend of the Seas. The ship was previously operated seasonally but will start operating three- to eight-night cruises from next year to a number of Far East destinations.
Royal Caribbean has just announced its Asian itineraries for 2010, which include ports of call such as Hualien in Taiwan, Miyazaki and Nagoya in Japan and Vladivostok in Russia, as well as Singapore, Hong Kong and ports in Vietnam.
According to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, which operates the Dubai Cruise Terminal, there was a 65% increase in traffic in the emirate in 2008 over the previous year. A 58% increase is expected this year, which represents more than 316,000 passengers.
Royal Caribbean says Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture and Information has also indicated it is keen to boost its cruise industry, with the kingdom attracting about 120,000 passengers per year — a figure it hopes to double in the next two years.
The company expects 32,000 passengers to sail on Brilliance of the Seas in the first year and could double the business in 2011, said Royal Caribbean International president and chief executive Adam Goldstein. The company is committed to at least two years’ operating out of Dubai.
The QE2 is moored alongside Dubai’s cruise terminal at Port Rachid, awaiting conversion into a luxury hotel. The temporary facility, capable of accommodating four ships, is expected to be replaced by a permanent centre in the next two to three years. It expects to receive approximately 100 calls this year and to see this figure increase by 15%-20% in 2010, Dubai Cruise Terminal executive Suresh Babu said.
Costa and Aida are two other cruise companies that have based ships in Dubai. Others that visit include luxury brands like Silversea.
The seasonality of Dubai, with itineraries between January and April, complements Royal Caribbean’s European cruise season, said Mr Goldstein. He said he would be “very happy” if Royal Caribbean could generate a quarter of its passengers from inside the region.
Developing a global brand is very much part of Royal Caribbean’s strategy. The company estimates that by 2011 or 2012, the majority of its revenue will be coming from outside the US. Its ships sailed from Australia, Asia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Panama last year.
The company has been working hard to develop the branch in the UK as well as other centres like the Nordic region, Germany, Italy and Spain.
According to Mr Goldstein, “when you look at the company you see a very globally-oriented cruise brand proposition”.
The group also has brands dedicated to individual countries including Pullmantur, which covers the Spanish market, a joint venture with Tui in the German market and CDF Croisieres de France — a single-ship operation using Bleu de France, which Mr Goldstein describes as a “small floating piece of France”.
Set up in 2007, Croisieres de France is a very young venture but one, according to Mr Goldstein, with much potential.
The inaugural sailing of Tui Cruises’ Mein Schiff took place last month.
With the largest ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas, set for delivery later this year and a sistership, Allure of the Seas, to follow next year, Mr Goldstein said he was comfortable with the financing of the massive project, and with the company’s strong relationship with STX Europe in Finland, which is building the two ships.
Asked whether Royal Caribbean would consider building a ship in the Far East, he pointed to the expertise that has been built up in Europe in the cruise sector. There would need, he says, to be “pretty compelling reasons to go elsewhere”.
July 17th, 2009, 05:57 AM
ABU DHABI EYEING OVER 50% CRUISE TOURISM GROWTH IN 2009-10
ABU DHABI, July 10 Asia Pulse - The Arabian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi is eyeing a 59 per cent growth in cruise passenger arrivals in the 2009/2010 season.
Forecasts by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which manages the emirate's tourism industry and promotes the destination, point to some 199,113 arrivals in the season, which will run from end of November to beginning of May, compared to a passenger arrivals total of 125,200 last season.
"The forecast is based on the 100 per cent occupancy level achieved by the cruise ships using Abu Dhabi as a port of call' last season," explained Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA in a press release issued Thursday.
"The increase is due to the inclusion of Abu Dhabi in Royal Caribbean International's weekly itinerary for its Brilliance of the Seas,' which has a passenger capacity of 2,501 and the fact that Costa Cruises is to boost its service to the UAE capital by introducing larger, brand new vessels with increased passenger capacity, " he added.
Due to sail into Abu Dhabi next season are the 1,266 passenger capacity Aida Vida' of Germany's Aida Cruises, and the recently commissioned Costa Deliziosa' and Costa Luminosa', both of which have a 2,828 passenger capacity in addition to Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas.' ADTA is planning to set up a hospitality tent to welcome the passengers as they disembark from the ships for day visits to the emirate.
Meanwhile, ADTA has commissioned a market study into the UAE capital's cruise potential.
"We are looking to establish the viability of Abu Dhabi as a home port for cruise vessels as opposed to its current status as a port-of-call," explained Ahmed Hussein. "We also want to better gauge whether we have future potential beyond the European fly-and-cruise market which we are currently serving.
"Cruise business delivers much greater economic impact to the destination and also provides it with an excellent opportunity to market itself to an influential audience which would be open to return visits."
January 25th, 2010, 04:30 AM
Cruise launches refugee tourism
24 December 2009
FORGET adventure tours, the latest travel experience appears to be refugee tourism with the Federal Government spruiking Christmas Island as the newest must-see destination.
The first cruise ship voyage to the island off the West Australian coast - which houses Australia's overcrowded offshore immigration detention centre - took place yesterday.
Many of the inhabitants on Christmas Island want to leave, but P&O Cruises is marketing its ``Flower of Asia'' tour as ``an exotic adventure to less travelled Asian destinations''.
It comes as the Government denies fresh Opposition claims that its border control measures are failing and that Christmas Island is now bursting at the seams.
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor welcomed the first cruise ship visit to the island as a ``historic moment''.
``Passengers will be able to explore this unique natural paradise and experience the cultural diversity of this remote island,'' Mr O'Connor said.
In addition to regular visits by cruise ships, flights will soon start to the island through Virgin Blue.
A 16-day trip on the Pacific Sun, including a stopover on Christmas Island, starts from $3414 per person.
It is marketed as a chance to see unique flora and fauna, ``including the famous Christmas Island Red Crabs''.
But Opposition justice and customs spokesman Michael Keenan described the tours as farcical.
Mr Keenan said the island was inundated with so many detainees they had to stay in tents.
April 8th, 2010, 04:53 PM
Economic News in Brief: Large harbor for cruise ships to begin operation in N.China's Tianjin
TIANJIN, Apr. 1 (Xinhua) -- Construction work on a large harbor to accomodate cruise ships will be completed at the end of May in Tianjin, the largest artifical deep-water port of northern China, according to port management authorities.
The authorities said the harbor would be the largest ferry terminal in Asia.
The harbor, designed to be able to accomodate two cruise vessels at the same time, will receive leading cruise liners "Costa" and "Legend of the Seas" in June.
Last year, Tianjin port received 50 visits of international cruise ships, a growth of 56 percent year-on-year, with 54,118 human entries and departures by the liners, up 77 percent.
April 27th, 2010, 12:52 PM
It all hinges on how you do the maths, but on some estimates there are now more middle class people in Asia than in the whole of the West. The Chinese middle class alone, which may now number around 200m, is larger than the entire population of Japan. There are some 300m middle income Indians, who are largely Westernised in cultural terms.
April 28th, 2010, 11:34 AM
Don't think cruising has really hit the masses yet even with the big middle-class population. The nouveau riche prefer to fly further to Paris if they have the money, but I suspect this could be a major growth engine.
The biggest problem I see is geography. It's not so interesting to cruise from Tianjin to Shanghai along the Chinese coast. I suppose China - Japan cruises may be more popular, but anything down to the tropics probably won't be feasible from points Shanghai and north.
August 16th, 2010, 05:12 PM
Cruise market is starting to boom
4 August 2010
South China Morning Post
Asia is a booming market for cruises, with more in the region having the financial capacity to travel. But local travel agents say that international cruise companies need to do more to appeal to Asian customers.
"Some of my Hong Kong and mainland clients take their own instant noodles on board, as even buffets described as 'international' have no rice dishes," says Alex Lee, general manager of Miramar Travel. "And, while a growing number of mainlanders are inquisitive about cruises, many are not able to speak or read English and feel embarrassed as they can't read menus or the information provided on board. Some agents have to provide a tour leader to overcome this problem."
The knowledge of cruises among mainland travel agents is low, and there is a lack of information and booking services in Chinese on the internet, so many mainland clients turn to Hong Kong agents for help.
Cruise companies, however, are trying to address the language problem and cultural divide. Gerica Ricci, managing director of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia for Italian cruise company MSC Cruises, says that the global downturn, which weakened the United States and European markets, caused a shift in focus for international cruise operators, with many looking to Asia as a new, largely untapped market. Cruise operators are trying to generate strong demand through investing in ships, offices and infrastructure.
"Communication about, and knowledge of, cruises is increasing in the travel industry and this is helping Asians to become more familiar with this type of vacation," Ricci says.
MSC has had an office in Hong Kong for four years, and has an office in Shanghai which controls sales on the mainland. The company is in partnership with TourOperators which distributes their product in Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
"We are actively communicating and distributing the cruise product in Hong Kong. This involves all marketing activities such as the production of brochures in Cantonese," Ricci says.
The company is also expanding its services for Asians on board.
"The more Asians we carry on our ships, the more we are working to provide the best possible assistance for them," Ricci says. "We have Chinese-speaking people on board to help guests with everything they need, from the restaurant to general life on board. We can provide Chinese-speaking tour guides, and we are also capable of customising the product based on the requests of passengers, such as hot water served in the restaurants and buffet area, special menus, and so on."
But, while the cruise business is booming, Lee says it still accounts for less than 10 per cent of his travel agency's income. "The majority of our business is air-plus-coach tour packages which include shopping," he says.
And, while there is limited shopping on board many cruise liners, other attractions that appeal to Westerners have little impact on Asian customers.
"My clients don't spend time in the cinemas or watching the shows on board, and only half show interest in after-dinner drinks. Hongkongers tend to choose cruises that allow them to gamble," Lee says.
August 18th, 2010, 12:46 AM
That good for Asia Ecomonic....
August 15th, 2013, 01:22 PM
Rough seas forecast for China's fast-growing cruise industry
HONG KONG, Aug 15 (Reuters) - China has steamed into the cruise industry with new terminals - along with big plans for more facilities and a luxury ship - to bring more foreign tourists ashore and capitalise on domestic travellers wanting to sail the high seas.
But industry experts see trouble for the government-led initiative costing billions of dollars, including construction of lavish facilites that are losing money, lack of proper planning, high port fees for ships and inefficient cruise facilities with long delays to clear customs.
"The government, the local authorities, need to support the cruise lines in exercising international practice here," said Liu Zinan, the chairman in Shanghai of Florida-based cruise operator Royal Caribbean International.
Since cruise tourism was introduced in China less than 10 years ago, five terminals have been built at an estimated cost of more than 4.5 billion yuan ($735 million). Three are under construction and another six are in the pipeline.
The investment is paying dividends in terms of tourist numbers, with port calls by international cruise lines rising 8.8 percent last year to about 285, according to the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association.
But a construction spree has torpedoed profits, said Zheng Wei-hang, the association's vice president.
"All five established cruise terminals have suffered losses mainly as a result of excessive investment by municipal authorities in building landmark structures that have yielded insufficient returns," he told Reuters.
The Chinese government made development of the cruise sector a priority in 2011 as part of a five-year economic plan.
In the southeastern city of Xiamen, more than 16 billion yuan were earmarked for 10 projects that include construction of a 100,000-tonne luxury liner, a cruise terminal and a shipping business centre, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.
In Shanghai and Tianjin, the combined investment in cruise infrastructure has topped 12.3 billion yuan, Royal Caribbean International estimates.
'SIMPLY COPYING WILL NOT WORK'
Some experts are concerned the money is being pumped in without proper research of the market or its potential for growth, especially as the tastes of Chinese cruise passengers differ markedly from foreign travellers.
"Simply copying will not work," said Wolfgang Georg Arlt, director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute at West Coast University of Applied Sciences in Germany.
"Thorough market analysis and an understanding of the special demands of Chinese customers is needed before big investment is undertaken."
Mainland Chinese tend to opt for short trips that involve plenty of shopping, in contrast to many Europeans and Americans who favour longer cruises that require months of planning.
For Chinese travellers, bureaucracy abroad can be an obstacle as they must apply for multiple visas if they take a cruise to many popular Asian destinations, including Port Klang in Malaysia and Phu My in Vietnam.
South Korea's Jeju Island is a notable exception and has become popular among Chinese tourists because it grants 30 days of visa-free entry when they arrive directly by air or sea.
Shanghai, which launched China's cruise business, is at the fore of the industry with two terminals serving as homeports for ships sailing to Jeju and other northeast Asian destinations.
But even it has shortcomings, said office worker Shi Shile, who recently travelled to Taiwan on a Royal Caribbean ship from Shanghai's Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal.
"The terminal is good in hardware but poor in software. The service and the logistics need to catch up," he said. "On the contrary, the terminal in Taiwan is not that new but the service is much better."