News

Asian cruise market set to take off

1 Jul 2009

Seeing its potential as an alternative means of travel and taking a vacation, major Asian cities are putting the groundwork to welcome visitors
arriving by sea and to vie for the coveted title as Asia’s
cruising hub.

The premier cities – Hongkong, Singapore and Shanghai – have all announced multimillion
dollar-plans for the upgrade of existing terminals and for the building of new
ones.  

“People in Asia have just started to
accept taking a cruise as a way of vacationing,” said Dario Rustico, Costa
Cruises sales and marketing director for Pacific Asia operations. “Cruise is
the fastest growing part of the tourism industry with the highest number of
repeat customers and the highest amount of product satisfaction”.

In Hongkong, the decision to build a new cruise terminal at the old Kai Tak
Airport by 2013 is a
natural offshoot of a growing demand. Already one of the regular ports of call for many
cruise liners in Asia, visitor figures by
cruise ships have been steadily increasing in the last few years.

In 2008, overseas cruise passengers who arrived in Hongkong rose 25
percent from the previous year to reach 782,475. International liners made
approximately 50 port of calls to the city during this period.

The Hongkong Tourism Board (HKTB) estimated that a cruise passenger in
Hongkong spends about HK$2,114 (US$273) per visit and usually stays overnight.

“The HKSAR Government is committed to strengthen Hongkong’s position as
a leading cruise hub in the Asia-Pacific region through the development of the
new cruise terminal,” said a HKTB spokesperson.

Likewise, Singapore
is looking to cement its position as a prime cruise stopover location.

The International Cruise Terminal at SCC@HarbourFront has been upgraded
to convert its existing space from an exhibition conference hall into an
operational cruise passenger terminal.

In addition, a new international cruise centre is
currently being built in the Lion
City scheduled for
completion next year.

“Like any hub, we need to attract varied brands and
types of ships to cater to different demand from tourists and locals alike to
cruise to and from Singapore. This is also important to opening up the local
market to a new holiday option, that is, a cruise holiday versus the
traditional option of air travel holidays,” said Cheong Teow Cheng, president
of Singapore Cruise Centre.

In Shanghai, another Asian cruise hub
contender, is now building its second cruise terminal at Paotai
Bay in Baoshan District’s Wusong Port.
It is set to open in April 2010.

With the Shanghai World Expo arriving in the Chinese city next year, Shanghai is expecting the
number of visitors arriving on cruise ships to double.

Cheong of the Singapore Cruise Centre noted the
potential for growth of the cruising industry is not diminished despite the
current economic slowdown.

“Asia as a region is
developing as an attractive alternative cruise playground in the world,” he
said.

This fact is not lost to regional and international cruise operators
who have also spotted same business prospect.

Last October, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Silversea and
Star Cruises signed a memorandum of understanding to promote development,
professional growth and commercial success of the cruise industry in Asia.

“The Far East will play a crucial role
in the development of the cruise industry,” said Massimo Brancaleoni, Costa
Cruises vice-president for Pacific Asia operations.

And Asia’s emerging cruise hubs are optimistic that despite
the bumpy waves of the economic slowdown, the
cruise market will deliver its full potential.

Joshua Tan

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