Pier Luigi Foschi, Carnival Corporation’s Head of Asia, predicts that Asian passengers will account for one in every five cruisers, or about double the ratio today, by the end of the decade. He expects Asia will be able to supply 3.7 million passengers a year by 2017 and 7 million passengers a year by 2020.
These predictions were revealed at The Seatrade Hong Kong Cruise Forum. The four day conference explored cruise prospects for Hong Kong given China’s growth and a new cruise terminal slated to open in Hong Kong in June.
Carnival Corporation Chariman Micky Arison said in December that new Asia deployments for one or more Carnival brands will be announced by April. Earlier in January, the company announced plans to open a sales office for Princess Cruises in Hong Kong.
The potential is evident. But the challenge cruise lines face is how to develop cruise itineraries that attract and satisfy Asian customers. “We are in a bit of an experimental stage. The potential is fantastic, but it’s a question of what do the local clients what to do, and can we accommodate it?” said John Tercek, VP Commercial Development at Royal Caribbean.
Not surprising, Western and Asian travelers have different preferences. Asian travelers prefer shorter cruises of five days or less, whereas Western cruisers enjoy longer trips up to 12 to 14 days. Also, beach destinations are very popular among Western travelers but not so much among Asians, who prefer to avoid direct sunlight.
In addition to cruiser preferences, Foschi said other challenges in Asia include misconceived notions about cruises, lack of distribution, late booking, competition from cheap land vacations, and a stronger seasonality that causes swings in net revenue yields. But the lack of destination ports with the capability to handle big ships may be the biggest challenge.
Royal Caribbean’s decision to add the 3100-passenger Voyager of the Seas to Asia could change that, Tercek stated. “Wherever we take that ship, others follow because we cause the infrastructure to be built.”