Cruise operators confident of future
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, the world’s second-largest cruise operator, still expects to grow its business in China this year despite a general slowdownin the sector in the country and worldwide, according to its regional president.
Liu Zinan, the company’s president for China and North Asia, said the firm has enjoyed 80 to 90 percent annual growth nationally in recent years.
Both passenger volumes and income have increased, he said, without the need to cut its prices.
“This cheerful performance inChina has repaid our investment here,” he said.
Royal Caribbean is now basing its newest and most advanced cruise liner in China. The giant 168,000-ton Quantum of the Seas has been operating from here since July, and is believed to be the largest ever cruise ship to be serviced in the country.
By next June, its Ovation of the Seas, currently being built in Germany, will be also based here, Liu said.
The operator plans to run five individual cruises next year from Tianjin, Shanghai, Xiamen and Hong Kong to Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.
“This investment into China shows just how we value the market,” Liu said.
China’s cruisemarketwashit hard earlier this year byMiddle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, outbreak in South Korea — the main destination for Chinese cruise traffic.
Up to two million Chinese residents are expected to take an outbound cruise this year, which represents more than 40 percent of the total Asian market, according to the China CruiseandYacht IndustryAssociation. The association’s secretary-general Zheng Weihang expects 613 voyages from the Chinese mainland, a 31.5 percent rise on last year.
“Cruise travel has become a new growth point of domestic consumption in China, and the industry will continue to boom in the next 10 years,” Zheng said.
Competition for passengers, however, is also becoming more intense.
Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest operator, is planning to double its Chinese voyages by 2017, by offering two more classes of service.
The British company also signed a joint venture agreement with two Chinese Stateowned companies last month, during President Xi Jinping’s visit to the country, to build and then operate luxury cruiseliners from the country.
Liu from Royal Caribbean said foreign operators in China are likely to find the route ahead tougher than before, but insisted that in a market that still has a limited number of services, demand will remain high for its type of high-end cruise products.