A pent-up demand for overseas travel, along with an increasing number of of vaccinated citizens across the country, is buoying Indonesians' desire for cruise vacations, with Singapore high up on the cruise destination radar.
The robust consumer and trade interest in cruise was palpable at CruiseWorld Indonesia 2021, which was held virtually on 25 March by Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in partnership with Travel Weekly Asia.
A live poll conducted by STB's area director, Indonesia (Jakarta) Mohamed Firhan Abdul Salam, at the beginning of the virtual event revealed that over 70% of the audience, of which Indonesian travel agents made up a majority, were either 'very confident' or 'extremely confident' to sell cruise. Another 25% indicated that they were 'somewhat confident, while only a very small portion (4%) expressed hesitation in selling cruise again.
"We all need the refreshing vitamin sea," remarked Pauline Suharno, commissioner and director, Elok Tour, Indonesia and secretary general, ASTINDO National Board, pointing out that Indonesians are awaiting the reopening of borders for cruises to resume as a holiday option for them.
A year-long pause in cruising has similarly stoked corporates' desire to return to the high seas, shared Irawati Victorio, who plans several incentive trips each year in her role as assistant sales manager at Synergy Worldwide Indonesia. "They're all keen to get back onboard," she added.
Cruise is highly favoured for incentive travel because employees "just have to pay one price but visit many destinations, enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, shopping, entertainment such as live music, games and facilities — just like a five-star hotel", Irawati shared during CruiseWorld Indonesia.
In fact, Indonesians are already travelling to Turkey, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, countries which have reopened their borders to Indonesian tourists, and Pauline believes that the same eagerness will be demonstrated for Singapore cruises if the sector opens up.
A poll conducted by STB's Mohamed Firhan Abdul Salam gave insights into the high level of confidence among Indonesian agents in selling cruise again.
Singapore's proximity remains attractive to Indonesians, said Budi Gani, president director at Multi Alam Bahari Internasional, so when the borders reopen "locals will soon travel again [to Singapore], especially for cruising".
Prior to Covid-19, Indonesia was already "second [in terms of] top visitor arrivals with a record high of 3.1 million in 2019, and is also one of our top three source markets for cruising," said STB area director of Indonesia (Surabaya), Jolene Goh.
Successful cruise restart stokes confidence
The strong interest in Singapore as cruise destination is also driven by the successful restart of cruises in the Lion City since last November.
Genting Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International — the two cruise lines which have resumed sailings on Singapore's waters — also shared more about the post-pandemic cruise experience, protocols and safety measures on board during CruiseWorld Indonesia.
"Especially after [viewing the two cruise lines’ safety videos], we can convince our people that cruising is very safe," said Budi, whose sentiment was echoed by multiple agents' chat comments during the webinar.
The next step, stressed Pauline, lies in educating cruise consumers.
She added, "We [agents and planners] have the extra homework [to educate consumers] that cruising is safe. All of you have watched the cruise safe video played by STB, Royal Caribbean and Genting...but you also have to tell your clients how the health protocols are done."
Cruise lines have taken many measures to ensure a safe sailing experience, stressed Josh Wen, Royal Caribbean Cruises' head of sales Asia Pacific. "You are twice as much safer as you are on a cruise ship than in a building on land," referring to incremental measures such as requiring every crew member and guest to test negative for Covid prior to cruise embarkation.
Safety aside, Indonesian agents also expressed concerns about the cost of travel in the post-pandemic climate and whether reduced sailing capacity and pre-boarding testings would translate to higher cruise fares.
With Singapore regulations mandating that all passengers have to undergo Covid tests prior to cruise embarkation, Both Genting and Royal have absorbed the Covid testing costs and assured the agent audience that cruising remains a value-for-money experience.
Said Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises, "It's important for us to regain confidence of cruisers, [which is why] we made it affordable for them to come back onboard".
As well, STB's Goh added that support schemes for Indonesian agents are in place. "We continue to look to our agents for support to promote Singapore cruising in-market when borders reopen, and leisure travel can resume."