Cruise firms bullish on prospects

By Wang Ying and Shi Jing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-02 07:43

Cruise firms bullish on prospects

A cruise ship docks in Zhoushan Port, Zhejiang province, for repairs.XINHUA

Foreign cruise operators are making a beeline for China, the world's second largest market for cruise passengers after the US, with a flurry of office openings and launching of tailor-made vessels for local customers to cash in on the growing demand.

Costa Cruises, a unit of Carnival Corp, the world's largest leisure travel company, launched a project on Wednesday to build a cruise ship specially for the China market named "Costa Venezia", which means Coast of Venice in Italian.

The vessel will be built by Fincantieri S.p.A., the world's largest cruise ship building company, and is scheduled to make its maiden voyage in 2019 from Trieste, Italy. It will follow the itinerary of great Italian explorer Marco Polo before arriving in Shanghai, its future home port. The cruise ship is also one of the two ships that have been tailor-made for the China market by Costa Cruises in 2019 and 2020.

Both Carnival and Fincantieri will participate in China's domestically manufactured cruise liner project and the first vessel will be delivered in 2023, followed by one vessel every year from 2024 to 2028.

As the brand that brought cruising into China in 2006 and the leader in the Chinese cruise market, Costa Cruises has served over two million Chinese to date. China has in the past decade become the growth engine of the global cruise industry, said Michael Thamm, CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia.

Meanwhile, Switzerland-based cruise company Viking Cruises opened its Chinese office in Shanghai on Wednesday, indicating its resolve to fully tap the market in the country.

Viking Cruises entered the China market in 2016 by introducing tailor-made cruises for Chinese customers on the Rhine and Danube rivers.

According to Torstein Hagen, founder of Viking Cruises, China is one of the most important markets for the company and the Shanghai office is a key component of its strategic plans in the country.

"We have full confidence in the Chinese market," he said. "We will continue to invest here and optimize our products and services so that Chinese consumers can experience the essence of European culture."

The 2016-2017 China Cruise Industry Development Report published recently said China's 11 major cruise ports served as home ports for 927 cruise ships, representing a year-on-year growth of 72 percent.

According to Cruise Line International Association, the number of cruise passengers in China has been growing at about 76 percent year-on-year for the past four years to reach 2.1 million in 2016.

"International players are realizing the potential of the cruise market in China although they will have to cater to the relatively younger customer groups to succeed in the market," said Pascal Martin, partner of global market research firm OC&C Strategy Consultants.

Shanghai has outperformed other port cities in attracting passengers. In 2016, Shanghai was the busiest in Asia and welcomed 509 cruise ships and conducted 2.89 million passenger trips, said Zhang Lin, deputy director of Shanghai Transportation Commission during Costa's new ship launch.

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