Asian Nations Push for More Exposure in Cruise Market

Thursday, March 15, 2007
The Port of Shanghai is getting a new cruise passenger terminal. Southeast Asian nations are teaming up on a Web site for cruise travelers. Officials from China are using the 2008 Olympics to promote a triangle of northern cruise ports. And don't forget about us, says Taiwan. Here's Asia, cruising's new frontier. Accordng to The Ledger, representatives from the Asia-Pacific region attended the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Conference this week, beginning an aggressive marketing campaign with the goal of making Asia a competitor in the world cruise market. Many of them toured ports in Miami and Port Everglades to get a sense of U.S. port operations. Today, the Asia-Pacific region lags behind the Caribbean, Europe and Alaska in notoriety as a cruise destination. But Asian officials contend there is long term growth potential for a region with improving ports and alluring destinations such as the Great Wall of China and the jungles of Indonesia. They predict that cruising will grow 40 percent to 1.5 million passengers in 2010 in the region.

Infrastructure is mentioned as a major obstacle in terms of ship and passenger capacity, with many ports falling short of having adequate transportation in and out of port facilities, for example. Security, deployment costs and creating more interest in cruising among Asian travelers are other challenges. The world's largest two cruise operators, Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises, are establishing a presence in Asia. Carnival Corp.'s Costa Cruises already offers Asia-Pacific vacations on the Costa Allegra, and Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas will become the largest ship in the region when it begins its deployment in December. Both ships will target Asia as a source market. Executives from major cruise lines were asked about the Asian market Tuesday during a panel discussion. Colin Veitch, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Cruises Group, said Star Cruises, which sails in the Asia-Pacific region, has seen bureaucratic issues related to cruising in China and a reluctance of Asians to take trips longer than two or three days.

The Chinese are reaching out to U.S. tour operators and travel agents to promote their country, which saw 1.7 million total U.S. visitors last year and hosts the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The port of Tianjin is billed as the gateway to Beijing. Two other ports in north China, Dalian and Qingdao, can hold large cruise ships, and both are set to have new cruise terminals within the next three years. China also is working closely with Korea and Japan to boost cruise travel in northeast Asia. Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, collaborated on a Web site to promote the Southeast Asian cruise industry, which is predicted to grow 5 percent per year until 2020, to about 820,000 passengers. The site takes advantage of the trend of customers using the Internet as a preferred method of finding vacations. It directs users to a site for each ASEAN country and gives executives access to port information.

The ASEAN Cruise Working Group also plans to train travel agents on cruising, pursue infrastructure development and build relationships with the cruise industry, said Kevin Leong, chairman of the ASEAN Cruise Working Group. Also among the nations seeking to dip into the cruise market is Taiwan, which is heavily promoting its natural beauty and cultural and historic destinations. Taiwan had 3.51 million visitors last year, but only 24,000 were cruise passengers. Though it does not have direct sailings to China because of political issues, Taiwan would like to increase its exposure to cruise passengers by targeting source markets of the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Macau, said Kuo Su Tsan-Yang, deputy general of Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Another company in the region is Seabourn Cruise Line, which services ports including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam. Peter Cox, Seabourn's director of itinerary planning and development, cites security as a concern for cruise lines looking at the Asia-Pacific market. Source: The Ledger

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