SMALLER LINERSGAINING POPULARITY INNATION
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 Ctrip.com 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.