CruiseThe inaugural Asian edition of the cruise conference dived deep into pertinent cruising issues and agent selling opportunities to an audience of over 300.

Sea of Success

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Top executives from leading cruise lines with the panel moderators from Northstar Travel Group.
Top executives from leading cruise lines with the panel moderators from Northstar Travel Group. Photo Credit: CruiseWorld Asia

CruiseWorld Asia 2017 took place on November 30 at the Raffles City Convention Centre in Singapore to an audience of over 300.

Organised by Northstar Travel Group’s Travel Weekly Asia, this one-day forum, followed by ship inspections the next day, served as a platform for cruise companies, travel agents, port operators and industry professionals to network and learn.

The chosen theme of ‘The Future of Southeast Asia Cruise Tourism: It’s Not How to Sell, But What to Sell’ shone the spotlight on cruising in Asia Pacific and pertinent issues against a backdrop of growing passenger numbers and cruises.

Untapped cruise market opportunity
A key topic highlighted was the untapped cruise market opportunity within the region. 

“Asia is only halfway of reaching its potential as a cruise hub. There is a growing middle-class population in Asia who can afford to travel and have not experienced cruising,” commented Bob Guy, managing director, Destination Asia.

Sean Treacy, managing director for Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Sean Treacy, managing director for Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Photo Credit: CruiseWorld Asia

“Cruise opportunities, especially in South East Asia, are just scratching the surface. We need to work as an industry to sell the value proposition of cruising,” said Sean Treacy, managing director for Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Exciting cruise products to help agents sell 
To help agents sell more cruise holidays, cruise lines are ramping up their offerings with exciting and unique products.

During his presentation, Treacy shared that check-in will soon be a breeze onboard Royal Caribbean thanks to its Excalibur project that allows passengers to check in via facial recognition.

“[Unlike budget travel], cruise is not a commoditised product. It requires a high level of interaction between the agent and the consumers,” said Michael Ungerer, chief operations officer, Carnival Asia.

To that end, Costa Asia provides passengers with an authentic Italian cruise experience. For instance, Fortuna, Costa’s latest ship to sail from Asia, features 4,800 masterpieces to entice art lovers.

Agreeing with Ungerer was Michael Goh, senior vice president for international sales, Genting Cruise Lines, “Cruise products can be very versatile. We can innovate themed cruises and enrichment programmes to cater to the needs of different target segments with special interests, such as a corporate incentive cruise, wedding-at-sea cruise and celebrity chef-led gourmet cruise,” he opined. 

For luxury travellers, Genting Cruise Lines’ offers an all-inclusive suite concept on its fleet, featuring a European butler service and exclusive bars and restaurants.

In the instance of Hurtigruten, it recently introduced underwater drones on its expedition ships allowing passengers to explore the ocean even if they cannot dive.

Said William Harber, its president for China & Asia Pacific, “At Hurtigruten, the ship is not the destination, the destination is the destination. Our off-ship experiences and polar landings are way more interesting than anything on a cruise ship.”

Challenges faced by travel agents
Agents also took to the stage to voice their opinions on staying relevant in the face of improving technology, potential competition from online direct channels and clients’ perception that cruise is merely for “the old and rich”, according to Wasana Paisarn-Akanee, general manager, Joyful Holiday Co. Ltd.

To combat the problem, fellow panellist Kenny Cheong, managing director, Hwajing Travel & Tours, had this to share, “Give your customer the best experience that is not on the itinerary.”

In addition, sessions highlighted selling opportunities for agents such as the chartering of cruise ships for MICE groups.

Awash with takeaways 
The conference also brought together port operators who acknowledged the need for adequate port infrastructure to support rising demand. 

In the session, ‘From Sea to Shore: Cashing In On the Cruising Wave’, panellists discussed opportunities for agents to add value by working with local operators to create immersive shore experiences.

The day concluded with a presentation on Asia’s cruise trends by Wong Jiali, regional manager, Asia, CLIA, who offered this word of advice, “The strongest cruise markets have the most cruise-educated agents. Agents can pick up new skills and knowledge through CLIA’s enhanced accreditation programme in Asia.” 

On the ground
Compiled by Naomi Neoh

Arlis Lim, travel consultant, HIPO Tour
Arlis Lim, travel consultant, HIPO Tour Photo Credit: CruiseWorld Asia

“This has been a very useful show to help us get more product information across the different cruise lines as well as promotions. In Indonesia, cruise is not yet on their minds yet as there is still the perception that it is expensive. In terms of destinations, I think Indonesians will look to Port Klang or Penang for food. For longer-haul trips, they will head to Ho Chi Minh.” 
– Arlis Lim, travel consultant, HIPO Tour

Jenny Ho, managing director,  Classic Travel Pte Ltd.
Jenny Ho, managing director, Classic Travel Pte Ltd. Photo Credit: CruiseWorld Asia

“This event was really informative, I learnt a lot. Cruise is up and coming but we need more training and classroom-style teaching as quite a lot of agents are still not equipped with product knowledge. It’s not enough just to have cruise inspections.” 
– Jenny Ho, managing director, 
Classic Travel Pte Ltd.

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