Two of the world’s biggest cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, have big plans for China as cruise vacations catch on among younger travelers.
According to South China Morning Post, both cruise companies will add additional ships to their fleets in China. Royal Caribbean, which entered China in 2010, will increase its fleet in the region to five ships with the 160,000 ton Ovation of the Seas.
Through its subsidiary Costa Cruise Lines, Carnival will increase its capacity in China by 140 percent. The company expects its cruise ship based in Tianjin to embark on 40 cruises this year, up from 8 trips last year.
Liu Zinan, Royal Caribbean’s managing director for China and Asia, attributes the increased demand to a “bandwagon effect.” “Apart from traditional customers, the elderly and their families, we have found more men and women aged between 25 and 35, who can afford luxuries, are showing interest in us,” he said.
Travelers made 1.2 million trips to and from Shanghai’s two home ports, an increase of 60 percent over 2013. Cheng Juehao, a researcher at Shanghai International Shipping Institute, expects Shanghai to be the world’s top cruise port by 2030 with 8 to 10 million trips per year (departures and arrivals each count as one trip).
“As products are diversified and visas are more convenient to obtain, various groups of consumers are going to be attracted,” he said.
Dr. Sun Ruihong, a specialist in cruise tourism at Shanghai University of Engineering Science, believes families with young children and newlyweds will become key segments of the Chinese cruise market; however, she warns that the industry faces several hurdles.
“Whether the government is providing continuous support for the cruise industry and loosening limitations will be an important factor,” she said.
Chief among the obstacles to the industry’s success are high port charges, prohibition of operators selling their own tickets — requiring them to instead sell through agencies — and the requirement for applications for official approval of docking at each port in China.
image credit: royal caribbean