China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS -

Lux­ury cruises on small and medium-sized lin­ers are be­com­ing rapidly more pop­u­lar with Chi­nese cus­tomers, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey from HH­travel, the high­end brand of China’s largest on­line travel agency In­ter­na­tional Ltd.

Larger cruise ships mainly travel to Ja­pan, South Korea and South­east Asian na­tions, tar­get­ing mid­dle and low­erend clients.

High-end cruises mainly fo­cus on tourist des­ti­na­tions such as the Baltic and Mediter­ranean, the po­lar re­gion and Alaska, the sur­vey showed.

“Once cus­tomers ex­pe­ri­ence the smaller cruises, they will not go back to big­ger ships,” Ji Xiao­jing, cruises prod­uct man­ager at HH­travel, said.

“Ever since we in­tro­duced small cruises, they’ve gen­er­ated up to 80 per­cent of our en­tire cruise sales with pos­i­tive feed­back.”

Smaller cruises are su­pe­rior to big­ger ones in five main ways, Ji said: The ticket cov­ers ev­ery­thing from on-board din­ing to on­shore sight­see­ing, while there might be ex­tra fees on big­ger ships; a state­room can be al­most twice the size of those on larger ves­sels; there are fewer pas­sen­gers, about 200 to 700; they can have Miche­lin­starred chefs; the ra­tio of pas­sen­gers to ser­vice staff on a small cruise is about 1.5:1 and a 24-hour but­ler ser­vice is usu­ally of­fered.

Trips sold by HH­travel last be­tween 11 and 14 days and cost 70,000 yuan ($11,331) to 110,000 yuan. The most pop­u­lar in­clude Re­gent Seven Seas Cruises from Florida and Sil­ver Sea Cruises from Italy.

Al­though smaller cruises have great scope for growth in China, they’re a small slice of the Chi­nese mar­ket, par­tic­u­larly com­pared with Europe’s.

“The world’s top small and medium-sized cruises have hardly any prod­ucts sold via Chi­nese travel agencies,” Ji said. “Al­though there is much mar­ket de­mand, the in­dus­try has not fol­lowed up.”

In­dus­try sta­tis­tics show the cruise in­dus­try grows in leaps and bounds when a coun­try’s per capita gross do­mes­tic prod­uct reaches $6,000 to $8,000.

Last year in China, the fig­ure stood at $6,920, sig­nal­ing the in­dus­try’s po­ten­tial prime time for de­vel­op­ment.

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