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New cruise economy sets sail

By Zhu Wenqian | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2018-12-16 12:37

Small wonder that moves are afoot at both governmental and corporate levels to harness all that potential. Spanning modernization of ports, purchase of ocean liners, multimodal transport mechanisms and longer-duration visa-free visits to certain Chinese mainland areas in the neighborhood of ports, the big-ticket measures seek to monetize multibillion-dollar opportunities.

Michael Thamm, CEO of Costa Group and Carnival Asia, spoke after parent Carnival Corp, the world's largest leisure travel company, announced a 40:60 joint venture with China State Shipbuilding Corp in November.

"We are here in China not only to operate ships but to build the whole ecosystem, including shipbuilding, supply chain, port development, distribution and destinations. We would like to contribute to building a cruise economy in China, putting into full play the multiplier economic effect," Thamm says.

Meanwhile, Shanghai is planning the Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, an integrated complex complete with duty-free shops comparable to those at its international airport.

The products sold at the port's boutiques and in nearby areas will be upgraded. The idea is to boost coordinated growth of leisure cruises and city tourism, the local government says.

The planned terminal will, in itself, be a potential tourist attraction, much better than the current port in Shanghai, where a solitary duty-free shop covers less than 500 square meters, and sells mainly cigarettes and liquor. For today's outbound and inbound cruise tourists, that simply won't suffice.

Shanghai's local government therefore said in a statement issued in October that the planned terminal will house large duty-free stores that will stock high-end goods.

A campaign to spread awareness about China's various visa-free visit policies is also being launched. Unlike airline passengers, many foreign cruise travelers are not aware of China's 144-hour visa-free transit policy.

International travelers from 53 countries can enter the Chinese mainland through ports in Shanghai, as well as Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.

Publicity for visa-free policies can attract more inbound foreign tourists to enter China by cruise ships, the Shanghai government said in its statement.

South China's island province, Hainan, has also started a pilot run of a 15-day visa-free policy for tourists who take cruises and enter the country from the island.

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