Cruise firms bullish on prospects

China Daily (Canada) - - VIEWS - By WANG YING and SHI JING in Shang­hai

For­eign cruise op­er­a­tors are mak­ing a bee­line for China, the world’s sec­ond largest mar­ket for cruise pas­sen­gers after the US, with a flurry of of­fice open­ings and launch­ing of tai­lor-made ves­sels for lo­cal cus­tomers to cash in on the grow­ing de­mand.

Costa Cruises, a unit of Car­ni­val Corp, the world’s largest leisure travel com­pany, launched a project on Wed­nes­day to build a cruise ship spe­cially for the China mar­ket named “Costa Venezia”, which means Coast of Venice in Ital­ian.

The ves­sel will be built by Fin­cantieri S.p.A., the world’s largest cruise ship build­ing com­pany, and is sched­uled to make its maiden voy­age in 2019 from Tri­este, Italy. It will fol­low the itin­er­ary of great Ital­ian ex­plorer Marco Polo be­fore ar­riv­ing in Shang­hai, its fu­ture home port. The cruise ship is also one of the two ships that have been tai­lor-made for the China mar­ket by Costa Cruises in 2019 and 2020.

Both Car­ni­val and Fin­cantieri will par­tic­i­pate in China’s do­mes­ti­cally man­u­fac­tured cruise liner project and the first ves­sel will be de­liv­ered in 2023, fol­lowed by one ves­sel ev­ery year from 2024 to 2028.

As the brand that brought cruis­ing into China in 2006 and the leader in the Chi­nese cruise mar­ket, Costa Cruises has served over two mil­lion Chi­nese to date. China has in the past decade be­come the growth en­gine of the global cruise in­dus­try, said Michael Thamm, CEO of Costa Group and Car­ni­val Asia.

Mean­while, Switzer­land­based cruise com­pany Vik­ing Cruises opened its Chi­nese of­fice in Shang­hai on Wed­nes­day, in­di­cat­ing its re­solve to fully tap mar­ket in the coun­try.

Vik­ing Cruises en­tered the China mar­ket in 2016 by in­tro­duc­ing tai­lor-made cruises for Chi­nese cus­tomers on the Rhine and Danube rivers.

Ac­cord­ing to Torstein Ha­gen, founder of Vik­ing Cruises, China is one of the most im­por­tant mar­kets for the com­pany and the Shang­hai of­fice is a key com­po­nent of its strate­gic plans in the coun­try.

“We have full con­fi­dence in the Chi­nese mar­ket,” he said. “We will con­tinue to in­vest here and op­ti­mize our prod­ucts and ser­vices so that Chi­nese con­sumers can ex­pe­ri­ence the essence of Euro­pean cul­ture.”

The 2016-2017 China Cruise In­dus­try De­vel­op­ment Re­port pub­lished re­cently said China’s 11 major cruise ports served as home ports for 927 cruise ships, rep­re­sent­ing a year-onyear growth of 72 per­cent.

Ac­cord­ing to Cruise Line In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion, the the num­ber of cruise pas­sen­gers in China has been grow­ing at about 76 per­cent yearon-year for the past four years to reach 2.1 mil­lion in 2016.

“In­ter­na­tional play­ers are re­al­iz­ing the po­ten­tial of the cruise mar­ket in China al­though they will have to cater to the rel­a­tively younger cus­tomer groups to suc­ceed in the mar­ket,” said Pas­cal Martin, part­ner of global mar­ket re­search firm OC&C Strat­egy Con­sul­tants.

Shang­hai has out­per­formed other port cities in at­tract­ing pas­sen­gers. In 2016, Shang­hai was the busiest in Asia and wel­comed 509 cruise ships and con­ducted 2.89 mil­lion pas­sen­ger trips, said Zhang Lin, deputy di­rec­tor of Shang­hai Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion dur­ing Costa’s new ship launch.

Con­tact the writ­ers at wang_y­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

XINHUA

A cruise ship docks in Zhoushan Port, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, for re­pairs.

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