The huge growth of the cruise market in China – and the challenges that have accompanied it – were explored in the inaugural CruiseWorld China conference launched in Shanghai by Travel Weekly China.
Delegates to the event heard that in nine years to 2015, the market capacity has gone from 900 cabins to 12 cruise company operations, three of which were local Chinese cruise vessels. More than 600 cruises were offered with predictions that by 2030, more than seven million Chinese will be taking a cruise.
Speakers at the event included Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises and Dr. Zinan Liu, president of China and North Asia Pacific Region for Royal Caribbean International.
Anthony H Kaufman, senior vice president Asia, Princess Cruises, said it was important to ensure appropriate support for travel agents to help them “truly understand” and sell the cruise vacation experience.
Kauffman said it was also important to get the message across that consumer satisfaction after a first cruise was often higher than it was for a conventional tourism experience.
“It is a process of education and communication,” Kaufman said.
Royal Caribbean International president, North Asia Pacific and China, Dr Zinan Lui, in the keynote speech at CruiseWorld China, called on cruise lines to improve brand and product differentiation, and to work with travel agencies to develop more distribution methods.
Dr Lui said consumer awareness of cruise products in China was “not very high” and greater efforts were needed to communicate the value and appeal of the cruise product. “If you hope to penetrate this wall you need to have the energy,” he added.
Dt Lui said he did not believe the the Chinese cruise market had reached a situation of oversupply. He said the MERS outbreak in Korea had sent a chill through the market but he did not expect this to last.
“Every day there is a a new bottleneck, but we continue to break through, so this is not new stuff.”
Major sponsors at CruiseWorld China included, Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, United Airlines, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and WTCF.