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Spreading the word is key for cruising's growth in Asia

Spreading the word is key for cruising's growth in Asia
16 offices with 23 ships from seven brands visiting 90 ports making 1,439 calls in 2014. This snap shot of Carnival Corp & plc’s activity in Asia was given by William Harber, vp market development, Carnival Asia as the first keynote speaker of the second and final day of the cruise forum held in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Harber, who is based in Singapore, spoke about the need to spread the word on cruise and ‘converting prospective guests to cruise’ by getting them to choose cruise over other vacation options.  This requires a highly trained and motivated travel agent network to increase consumer awareness and explain why cruising is such a great value.

Itineraries need to take account how much vacation time customers have at their disposal. For Asians, this is relatively low and so  itineraries generally need to be planned around a 3, 4 and 5-day sailing. Itineraries must be adapted, he said. For Asia, this generally means packing in as many different countries as possible. Cruise holidays then need to be easy to book and easy to obtain visas.

The second panel discussion looked at cruise industry and port cooperation. 

Anthony Kaufman, svp, Asia, Princess Cruises encouraged every aspiring cruise port to be a marque port and to motivate the improvement of  all close-by ports.  

Anthony Lau, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board spoke about trends and opportunities in Asia. According to projections, over 50% of tourism growth will come from the Asia Pacific region, he noted.

Lau gave an example of  successful cooperation when Hong Kong worked on two exploratory  joint itineraries to Kaohsiung and Keelung last year which was proved to be a success. Hong Kong has also worked with Okinawa port. He said some of what needs to be done is to cultivate consumer interest and knowledge of cruise and customize cruise products to suit Asian tastes. .

Henry, Hai Dong Huang , gm, International Cruise Terminal of Shanghai Port said the growing market for package tours has made it necessary for them to work with some 300 travel agencies to promote cruise. With regard to bureaucratic impediments brought up repeatedly during the forum,  he said ‘we should cooperate and not just compete’.

Tingyi Tsai, deputy director, Port of Keelung noted more international cruise ships are calling Taiwan. Calls at Taiwan ports have increased from 200 in 2013 to 376 estimated this year with the top five cruise lines: Royal Caribbean, Costa, Princess, Star and Chinese operator HNA.  The number of cruise passengers this year is around  549, 850. 

He believed stakeholders can work together  to facilitate regional cruise development. He said Taiwan was willing to cooperate with Shanghai, Tainjin, Xiamen, Okinawa and Hong Kong to view how  they could mutually promote each others' destinations and have information sharing platform and share typhoon information, for instance.

Michael Goh, svp of sales, Star Cruises said North Asia hot tourism spots of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea can be developed into attractive cruise destinations for both domestic and international passengers. To entice more cruise operators to home port or call in Taiwan, port operators need to extend attractive tariff and incentive schemes. He advised that any tariff adjustments need to be given a minimum timeline of 1.5 years as cruise operators need the lead time to launch their cruise products well in advance.

Goh noted that China is emerging as a strong outbound market with an estimated 110m tourists  in 2014, according to China National Tourism Administration figures.

Paul Sun, chairman Kaohsiung International Cruise Association predicted that the cruise market in Taiwan is poised to grow with more home port operations and will bring with it a multiplier effect.  He called all stakeholders to support travel agencies and marketing efforts. ‘Source markets are important and we need to educate the local community on the joy of cruising,’ he remarked.