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Hong Kong Tourism’s Kenneth Wong reveals financial incentives for operators at Seatrade Cruise Global

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Incentives, including subsidies and other financial support, aim to attract cruise ships to Hong Kong said Hong Kong Tourism Board's Kenneth Wong at Seatrade Cruise Global 2023
Hong Kong has more to offer cruise passengers than ever before, incentives will be offered to visiting cruise lines, and the response to the lifting of the destination’s mask mandate by the international community has been both ‘overwhelming’ and ‘encouraging.’

So said Kenneth Wong, GM for MICE and cruise, Hong Kong Tourism Board, when he spoke to Seatrade Cruise in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the first day of Seatrade Cruise Global on March 28.

‘The response has been overwhelming; we are seeing a very encouraging increase in terms of the overall number of arrivals in Hong Kong. For February, we recorded triple growth versus January, plus, we have already achieved 30% of the total number of arrivals seen before the pandemic. The recovery momentum is very strong, it's already solid evidence that travellers are gaining confidence in coming back to Hong Kong.’

Hong Kong has secured over 160 calls this year from 16 cruise lines, which Wong attributes to ‘the trust and relationships we have built with cruise lines.’

Cruise lines make a return

Silversea’s Silver Spirit commenced the start of the cruise season in Asia with its debut return to Hong Kong in mid-January. According to Adam Radwanski, Silversea’s MD – Asia Pacific, ‘Hong Kong constitutes one of the most important ports in Asia for Silversea’ owing to its ‘enriching experiences, welcoming people, and spectacular cityscape,’ with the line committing four ships to sailing in Asia Pacific waters in 2023.

‘Silversea is investing heavily in the region and has seen tremendous growth within this market. We look forward to building on our close collaboration with Hong Kong for years to come, as we continue to offer our guests unique experiences in this iconic destination,’ added Radwanski.

Calls by TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, and the year-round homeporting of Resorts World Cruises in Hong Kong, in Hong Kong Tourism Board’s view, highlight the city’s potential for accommodating a variety of cruise products and fly-cruises for short- and long-haul markets.

Incentives for operators

Wong explained that Hong Kong SAR is ‘very committed’ to attracting more cruise ship deployments, especially overnight calls, and is making substantial efforts to make this a more attractive proposition. Additional financial support is among the ‘special initiatives’ being offered to cruise operators. ‘We want to incentivize cruise lines, not just in acquiring domestic passengers; we always encourage them to attracting more overseas and mainland customers to come to Hong Kong for fly cruises.’

He added, ‘We also subsidies for alleviating operational costs that give a big helping hand to the cruise lines to restart their deployment in Hong Kong – or choose Hong Kong as one of the key destinations on their world itineraries.’

Port operation cost subsidies and itinerary planning support for lines accompany consumer-focussed campaigns by Hong Kong.

While additional cruise lines have ‘expressed a lot of interest’ in coming back to Hong Kong from 2024, Wong explained, ‘We want to do a one-to-one engagement with major cruise lines, explaining our latest developments and – along with the incentives and financial support – work out a customized plan for some of the interested cruise lines to address their business needs.’

Expanding its source markets

As well as the resumption of United Airlines’ nonstop service to and from Hong Kong, joining Cathay Pacific as the dominant air carriers from the U.S., ‘Hong Kong International Airport is implementing an expansion plan for the three-runway system, which, when the project is completed, will be able to handle 30m more passengers a year by 2030,’ remarked Wong. 

Currently, Hong Kong has connections with 220 destinations, is visa-free to national of 160+ countries and is within a five-hour flight radius for half of the global population. According to Hong Kong Tourism Board, the destination holds untapped opportunities for cruise lines to develop new products and draw passengers from the mainland market comprised of 86m people who fly in from cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area via High Speed Rail and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge - the longest sea crossing in the world.

The High Speed rail service also offers the chance for cruise passengers to combine a visit to Hong Kong with a trip to mainland China ‘for a multi destination experience.’

Local community eager to see cruise ships return

Wong went on to explain that as one of the major pillars of Hong Kong’s tourism industry, the local community is eager to see the return of more cruise ships.

‘People in Hong Kong are very receptive to cruising and are more than happy to see more big or small vessels; Silver Spirit and TUI’s Mein Schiff 5, when they visited recently, received very positive media coverage.

‘I think people also want to see more ships taking a berth at our Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. It has been a while since we have received some major international cruise lines in Hong Kong, so when they see a double berth at the terminal, and cruise ships move across Victoria Harbour, it is something very touching and exciting.'

New and leading attractions

Along the harbor of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District is the new Hong Kong Palace Museum, with an exclusive collection of more than 900 priceless artefacts from the Palace Museum in Beijing, and M+, Asia’s first truly global museum of contemporary visual culture. ‘These two important new museums will give a lot of appeal among arts and culture lovers from all over the world,’ asserted Wong.

The Peak Tram to panoramic views from Victoria Peak has also been given a makeover, with new sixth-generation tram cars and a renovated terminal with a full-immersion video experience. 

2024 and beyond

Concluded Wong, ‘I am very confident that most of these cruise lines will stay with Hong Kong for 2024. Incrementally, we will try to attract even more cruise lines to come with the reopening of other neighboring ports in the market. We are also expecting the reopening of ports on the Chinese mainland to international cruise lines in the not too distant future.’ The Chinese government resumed visa-free entry for cruise passengers entering Shanghai earlier this month and made other adjustments to its visa and entry policies for overseas travelers.

Traditional music and dance

Hong Kong Tourism Board launched its ‘Hello Hong Kong’ global promotional campaign focused on showcasing the city’s reopening during a luncheon attended by cruise lines, media and other industry figures at Seatrade Cruise Global on March 27, which involved music and traditional lion dance. 

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TAGS: Asia asia