China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip.com International Inc, and cruise ship operator Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd have formed a joint venture to take the lead in China’s fledgling cruise industry.
Ctrip bought the Celebrity Century, a 1,814-person capacity cruise ship built in 1995 and refitted in 2006, from Royal Caribbean, and the joint venture will see the two companies partner to operate the ship, reports ECNS.
“Chinese companies own very few cruise ships and do not have any operational experience or even facilities,” said Zheng Weihang, vice-president of the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association.
The partnership will give Ctrip the chance to learn from a successful international cruise operator and give it a leg up on the competition within China.
Two other Chinese companies, Yantai-based Bohai Ferry Co Ltd and HNA Tourism, took a similar approach in buying second hand ships from international operators to start their cruise business. Bohai Ferry bought the renamed Zhonghua Taishan cruise liner from Costa Crociere SpA for $43.68 million. Its maiden voyage took place on August 16th with 900 passengers heading to South Korea. HNA Tourism, which has a single ship, Henna, plans to add 12 to 13 ships to its fleet over the next ten years.
With more than 10 percent of the market share in China, Ctrip has been focused on China’s cruise market for some time. Earlier this year, the company invested more than 200 million yuan ($32.57 million) to launch 15 exclusive cruise trips.
According to the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association, Chinese residents took 1.4 million cruise trips in 2013, up from 10,000 in 2005. The number of Chinese taking outbound cruise trips could exceed 700,000 this year.
“China will become one of the largest cruise markets in the world,” said Ctrip president Fan Min.
image credit: franz neumeier