‘GOLDEN’ AGE FOR CRUISES

In­dus­try show in Tian­jin cel­e­brates the po­ten­tial for new ex­pe­ri­ences in the next decade, Xu Lin re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE TRAVEL - Con­tact the writer at xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Cruise travel, al­ready grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity among Chi­nese with dis­pos­able in­come, will en­joy a boom over the next decade, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try ex­perts at a re­cent trade show.

A grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese trav­el­ers are en­joy­ing cruises as a leisurely way of travel, re­lax­ing as they en­joy de­li­cious cui­sine, ac­tiv­i­ties on board and hos­pi­tal­ity from an in­ter­na­tional ser­vice team.

“China’s cruise in­dus­try will de­velop even faster in the next decade, en­ter­ing into its golden pe­riod,” says Zheng Wei­hang, ex­ec­u­tive vice-chair­man and sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the China Cruise and Yacht In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, at the re­cent China Cruise Ship­ping and In­ter­na­tional Cruise Expo in Tian­jin. Cruise com­pany ex­ec­u­tives, travel agency rep­re­sen­ta­tives and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials par­tic­i­pated in the show.

Over the past 10 years, the num­ber of cruise ships that op­er­ate in China has in­creased from one in 2006 to 18. In­ter­na­tional cruise ports in China have grown from zero to seven, with three un­der con­struc­tion. It’s es­ti­mated that 1.6 mil­lion Chi­nese will travel over­seas on a cruise this year.

“Many Chi­nese trav­el­ers still think cruises are only a type of trans­port. It’s im­por­tant to make them re­al­ize that cruises are also des­ti­na­tions, and they can spend more time on board,” says Zheng.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment, Shang­hai, Tian­jin, and Hainan and Fu­jian prov­inces have in­tro­duced poli­cies to boost de­vel­op­ment of the cruise in­dus­try, he says, and more do­mes­tic cor­po­ra­tions are team­ing up with cruise com­pa­nies to pro­vide ship­build­ing, op­er­a­tion and tal­ent train­ing.

Many over­seas cruises have adapted to cater to the de­mands of Chi­nese cus­tomers ea­ger to en­joy them­selves with friends or fam­i­lies. Chi­nese trav­el­ers can have a square dance or play mahjong. Also, cruises are hir­ing Chi­nese crews and teach­ing sim­ple Chi­nese to for­eign crews.

“As a grow­ing num­ber of in­ter­na­tional cruise brands en­ter China, the mar­ket needs a brand that can com­bine lo­cal fea­tures with the in­ter­na­tional el­e­ments,” FanMin, vice-chair­man of Ctrip and chair­man of Sky­sea Cruise Line says.

“It’s the best time for do­mes­tic cruise com­pa­nies like us as the mar­ket is ma­ture. We have the lo­cal teams that know more about the China mar­ket.”

Sky­sea’s in­vestors in­clude theChi­nese on­line travel agency Ctri­pandtheUS-based Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, which op­er­ate the cruises to­gether. The­com­pany is plan­ning to have a sec­ond ship in China.

Mean­while, over­seas cruise com­pa­nies have been co­op­er­at­ing­with­Chi­nese travel agen­cies to open up the mar­ket and at­tract tourists.

Fan says tra­di­tional travel agen­cies have pi­o­neered the cruise econ­omy, by char­ter­ing a cruise and selling tick­ets to trav­el­ers. On­line travel agen­cies also fol­low this pat­tern in China and their share in the cruise-sales mar­ket is ris­ing.

Fan is con­fi­dent about on­line travel agen­cies’ role in the mar­ket and thinks they will help con­nect with young trav­el­ers who might en­joy cruises.

Liu Zi­nan, pres­i­dent of the China and North Asia Pa­cific re­gion for Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional, agrees that such char­ters help boost the cruise mar­ket in China. Most of Royal Caribbean’s sales are via travel agen­cies, but the­com­pany is striv­ing to ex­pand other chan­nels while main­tain­ing this whole­sale model.

As on­shore tours or­ga­nized by travel agen­cies are mainly for shop­ping, Liu says those who want to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing dif­fer­ent can join guided on­shore tours of­fered by the cruise com­pany.

The cruise as­so­ci­a­tion’s Zheng calls for more ports to open in Asia, not­ing that the cruise itin­er­ar­ies start­ing from China are lim­ited.

Wei Tao, chair­man of Di­a­mond Cruise In­ter­na­tional Co, Ltd, says his com­pany plans to have a cruise leav­ing from a Ja­panese home­port for Shang­hai, to draw Ja­panese tourists to China.

“Cruise tourism in China should have both in­bound and out­bound tourists. It should not just about trans­port­ing Chi­nese guests to Ja­pan, South Korea and South­east Asia,” Zheng says.

Zheng sug­gests that global cruise com­pa­nies open more cruise lines that go around the world, or that they first trans­port over­seas tourists to China by air and then havethem­tour around China and other Asian coun­tries on cruises.

“In the rapid growth of cruise tourism, qual­ity also counts. Op­er­a­tors in the in­dus­try should en­sure the good qual­ity of a cruise ex­pe­ri­ence, and avoid ma­li­cious low­price com­pe­ti­tion.”

PHO­TOS BY XU LIN / CHINA DAILY AND PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Top: A new cruise ship, Ma­jes­ticPrincess, board. owned by the global cruise com­pany Car­ni­val Cor­po­ra­tion, will ar­rive in Shang­hai in July. Above: Trav­el­ers en­joy ac­tiv­i­ties on

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