That rate means China's economy will double in 10 years, Carnival's chief operations officer and its top China man told reporters on Tuesday.
Buckelew fielded US media questions in a call from London, where Carnival Corp. and joint venture partners China State Shipbuilding Corp. and China Investment Corp. had just announced plans for a multi-ship domestic brand.
Reporters asked if this wouldn't eat into the profitability of Carnival's existing brands there.
'Our partners and we are confident there is room in the market,' Buckelew said. Currently only 11 cruise ships homeport in China. Anyway, Carnival isn't looking at the tiny sliver of Chinese who cruise now but the vast outbound travel market which topped 100m people last year and outspent every other nationality.
That outbound travel market grew by 12% last year and is forecast by many, including the Chinese government, to double to more than 200m people by 2020.
'Our target audience could double in the next five years,' Buckelew stressed.
'We see enormous opportunity. The market is so large,' he said, adding the real issue is not if there's adequate demand for cruising but whether there are enough ships to capture the market.
Buckelew noted 90% of China's 100m outbound market travels within Asia.
Cruise ships are 'perfectly suited,' as he put it, to provide them alternatives to other types of vacations in the region.