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China cruises possible in late 2023, more realistically '24: Bayley

PHOTO: SBW-PHOTO CRUISE_Michael_Bayley.jpg
Michael Bayley said Royal Caribbean has been led to believe impediments to China cruising will go away this year
With China lifting its zero-COVID policy, how soon could international cruising resume?

Royal Caribbean International is thinking late 2023 but said 2024 may be more realistic.

The China situation has improved significantly and things are starting to normalize, RCI President/CEO Michael Bayley said Tuesday.

Two impediments

But Bayley noted [International] cruises and group travel are still banned, and Japan is requiring Chinese tourists to be tested for COVID-19, which potentially could lead to quarantine.

Royal Caribbean has been led to believe these impediments will drop away sometime in the first half of this year.

'Late 2023 ... 2024 probably, realistically'

'As soon as those two conditions change, the market will reopen and we're thinking it'll be late 2023 ... 2024 probably, realistically, the China market will be back,' Bayley said.

Royal Caribbean Group President/CEO Jason Liberty added: 'China was a very high-yielding, highly profitable market for us. As that market comes back online, we're very optimistic how that market could further propel the opportunity for us.'

Given the current uncertainty, China is not incorporated into Royal Caribbean's 2023 guidance nor its Trifecta Program, which sets three financial goals to achieve by the end of 2025.

Hong Kong

Royal Caribbean International had operated Spectrum of the Seas from Hong Kong on cruises to nowhere during part of the pandemic but redeployed the ship to Singapore in early 2022 as measures to contain the Omicron variant waged on. Spectrum's Singapore deployment subsequently was extended into 2024.

In late January, Silversea's Silver Spirit, a Royal Caribbean Group ship, marked the return of international cruises to Hong Kong. Recently Resorts World Cruises announced the charter of Explorer Dream to begin short cruises to nowhere from Hong Kong in March.