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Hong Kong closer to 1m cruisers as new developments boost connectivity

(Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board)
HKTB's Anthony Lau - Remarkable growth and infrastructure developments have firmly established Hong Kong as one of the world's leading cruise destinations
Hong Kong handled 245 cruise calls in 2017, a 28% year-on-year increase from 2016, and recorded a 33% increase in cruise throughput, with more than 900,000 passengers.

Cruisers originated from international markets, mainland China and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong domestic market made up 42% of arrivals, the mainland for 23%, and short- and long-haul international markets contributed 35%.

Since Kai Tak Cruise Terminal opened in 2013, Hong Kong has amassed a compound annual growth rate of 29% for ship calls and 47% for passenger throughput.

Hong Kong Tourism Board executive director Anthony Lau briefed media on this growth at Seatrade Cruise Global, where Hong Kong has a high proile this week, also sponsoring the keynote session, the State of the Global Cruise Industry, and hosting a cocktail reception for the Asia Cruise Cooperation, an organization it co-founded in 2014.

Lau noted Hong Kong last year scored homeporting operations for notable ships including Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas and Dream Cruises' new World Dream, which was christened there and sails from Kai Tak Cruise Terminal year-round.

In 2018, Hong Kong again will be the homeport for Ovation of the Seas, from May to June, and Voyager of the Seas, from July to August. The two ships will sail varied itineraries, while World Dream continues two- to seven-day sailings.

Lau pointed out that Hong Kong’s connectivity, with more than 1,100 daily flights to over 220 destinations and a visa-free policy for over 170 countries, creates vast opportunities to develop fly-cruises. Hong Kong in 2017 received more than 14m international visitors, a huge source of customers for fly-cruise packages.

Lau also delivered details on opportunities resulting from Hong Kong’s new infrastructure developments, which will usher in a new era of fly, rail and cruise tourism. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will shorten the distance from most areas located in China’s populous western Pearl River Delta to within a three-hour commute, and journeys between Hong Kong and Zhuhai or Macau will be reduced to within an hour. Scheduled to open in 2018, the bridge will add convenience for mainland travelers to take a cruise from Hong Kong.

Another major infrastructure project that will positively impact the cruise sector is the building of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL). With the XRL, Hong Kong is poised to become part of China’s fast growing nationwide high-speed rail network, which spans 29 of the country’s 33 provincial-level administrative divisions. Visitors will be able to travel between Hong Kong and the mainland with unprecedented convenience and speed, opening opportunities for rail-cruise business.

'Overall, Hong Kong has seen a remarkable performance in the cruise travel sector in the past few years,' Lau said. 'Hong Kong’s state-of-the-art cruise terminals and operational support, together with the diverse visitor experiences and ongoing development of new infrastructure, have firmly established our position as one of the world's leading cruise destinations for years to come.'

Support from the Hong Kong SAR Government, he added, has already earmarked additional funding for the HKTB to elevate the promotion of fly-cruise and rail-cruise itineraries with its cruise line partners, and the close collaboration of all members of the Asia Cruise Cooperation is crucial for promoting Hong Kong as a world-class cruise hub.

Visitors will continue to discover the myriad experiences that have made Hong Kong one of the world's most exciting and sophisticated destinations. Spectacular events throughout the year include the International Chinese New Year Night Parade in February, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival in June and the Hong Kong Cyclothon and Wine and Dine Festival in October, to name a few.

Late last year, the HKTB debuted a new version of the internationally acclaimed nightly multimedia light show 'A Symphony of Lights,' which travelers can see free of charge from various vantage points including the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the promenade outside the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai.