World's leading cruise lines eye Asia for growth region set to become 'next engine of the industry'.
At the keynote session of the inaugural Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention, held in Shanghai, saw more than 300 international and local delegates weigh the potential of Asia to become what Chairman Lu Haihu of Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) called "The next engine of the world cruise industry."
MSC Cruises' CEO, Pierfrancesco Vago, set the tone by describing this continent as "the last untouched frontier in cruising." He stressed: "MSC wants to be here."
Michael Bayley, SVP of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, added his assent and, focusing on the Chinese market, said: "We are already expanding our Shanghai operation and also opening offices in Beijing and Guangzhou within the next four years." He expressed hope that the authorities and the lines can keep working together to create "a seamless cruise experience."
With brand new cruise terminals under construction all along China's coastline, from Dalian to Shenzhen, the country is aware it must relax some of its cruise calling policies in order to share increased cruise exposure in the region.
SIPG's Chairman Lu accepted that "The cruise market here is still in the developing stages. Since Asia is totally different, there are lots of issues we have to handle differently." Keen to expedite growth, he joined cruise operators in encouraging the liberalisation of cabotage laws which mean the next stop of a ship leaving a Chinese terminal must be another country. Senior government representatives attending understood the issue and the matter has been taken up directly with the Ministry of Communication.
Officials took the opportunity afforded by the convention to announce a brand new cruise chapter of the China Association of Ports & Harbors, pledging to work together towards this and other aims for the sector's growth.
Elsewhere in the convention, the long-awaited Asia Cruise Association (ACA) was ratified by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Costa Crociere spa, MSC, Silversea Cruises and Star Cruises. Facilitated by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the association has been more than 10 years in the making.
Steve Odell, Silversea's VP Asia Pacific, emphasised that although there are existing cruise association models in North America, Europe and Australia, what makes the ACA different is its sheer scope. "We are also involving a lot of other parties, too, other than the lines themselves." These will include the travel agent community, the agents, suppliers and virtually every sub-sector that contributes to the whole industry. Michael Goh, SVP (Sales) of Star Cruises, described ACA as a "central knowledge hub."
Concluding the morning's activities, Seatrade's Managing Director Christopher Hayman said: "Asia is on the threshold of major cruise expansion. These are exciting times and there are many more to come."