World / Reporter's Journal

Cruise companies continue to steam into Chinese ports

By William Hennelly (China Daily USA) Updated: 2015-10-29 09:43

Cruise companies continue to steam into Chinese portsCarnival Cruise Line is adding to the lineup of cruise ships docking in China, a market that shows no signs of letting up.

Euromonitor, a research firm, said that the Chinese cruise-ship market could reach $11.5 billion in sales by 2018, from $6.8 billion in 2013.

Carnival Corp announced on Wednesday that the Carnival Miracle (2,124-passenger capacity) will be based in China in spring 2017, followed by the Carnival Splendor (around 3,000-passenger capacity) a year later. Both ships will be based in China year-round, the Miami, Florida company said.

On Oct 23, Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas arrived at Tianjin port, where it will begin the first of four round-trip voyages until mid-November.

China's cruise market is developing quickly despite an economic slowdown, with the number of passengers growing from several thousand in 2005 to 1.72 million in 2014, according to the China Communications and Transportation Association, Xinhua reported.

By 2020, the cruise industry is expected to contribute 51 billion yuan ($8.30 billion) to the country's economy, the association said.

"China's cruise market has expanded from one ship with 900 cabins in 2006 to eight liners with 18,000 cabins in 2014," said Zheng Weihang, vice-president of the China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association. "And it will continue to grow."

In October 2014, the China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) announced that it would form a joint venture with Carnival to build China's first luxury cruise ship, Xinhua reported.

The goal is to develop China's cruise industry and foster new growth areas for the economy, said Hu Wenming, chairman of CSSC.

Hu said China needs about 50 luxury cruise ships, and that number is expected to rise in coming years.

Liu Zinan, president of North Asia and China at Royal Caribbean International, said the company is tailoring its onboard restaurants and activities to Chinese customers' tastes. Royal Caribbean's business in China has witnessed exponential growth yearly since entering the market in 2009, Liu said.

"It's been a major learning experience, and not an easy one," Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain said in an earnings conference call with analysts on Oct 23. "But fortunately, the market has been very receptive to our product and to our message.

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