Ted Blamey, principal of Sydney-based Chart Management that has been consulting to the global cruise industry since 1997, told delegates at Cruise New Zealand’s 2015 conference in Auckland on Friday the Chinese market has a long way to go before it matures.
Blamey undertook an ‘Asia Cruise Trends’ project for Cruise Lines International Association which was presented at Seatrade Cruise Global this year.
He is the first person to extensively research the region.
Blamey said China is the fastest growing source market in the world, with almost 700,000 passengers last year.
He said going on recent growth patterns, well over two million Chinese will be cruising by 2020. It is feasible that figure could even be as high as four million.
However, vacation time and the ability to get away is limited, so the Chinese take very short cruises—currently 94% of all cruises are under a week. Cruise length is expected to increase as the market matures.
Blamey also said that while China provided almost as many passengers as all other Asian markets combined last year, most Chinese cruised locally. Only 4% flew to international regions while 95% took Asia only cruises.
He said when the Chinese do fly internationally to cruise, they favour Europe. Most—63%—go to the Mediterranean and the Baltics. Alaska and the Caribbean each receive 17% of these travellers and the Pacific region only receives 2.1%.
There are three modes for the China source market to cruise to New Zealand, he said. First there is cruising from or to China, but it must be remembered that it takes a ship 16 days from China at 16 knots with no stops to reach Auckland.
Second, there are five voyages next year between China and the special administrative region of Hong Kong and New Zealand. Holland America Line’s Amsterdam makes a 29-night sailing from Auckland to Hong Kong on February 2; Pacific Princess makes a 21-night sailing from Auckland to Hong Kong on February 8; Queen Mary 2 sails from Auckland on March 4 on a 22-night voyage to Shanghai; Insignia sails from Shanghai on April 3 on a 46-night voyage to Auckland and on July 9 Sun Princess makes a 53-night journey from Shanghai to Auckland.
The third mode are the many fly-cruise options for the Chinese out of Sydney or Auckland on both large and expedition ships, but Blamey said the market first needs to become more cruise-sophisticated.
He said there are many reasons for optimism, including the number of ships, including four mega-liners, being homeported in China. Carnival is close to forging a new China brand and there are new Chinese entrants. There is a growing middle class with disposable income and more freedom to travel and there is the multiplier effect of cruise experience and word-of-mouth.
Looking ahead at long-term developments, Blamey said the market will move beyond three- to five-day cruises for more interesting itineraries and a wider scope of destinations, the international fly-cruise product will become more popular and Chinese cruisers, especially upscale repeaters and retirees, will move beyond Europe to other world cruising regions, including the Pacific.
Blamey predicted New Zealand will have a unique and exotic appeal to Chinese cruisers.
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