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Voyaging into new era in cruise trade

By Wang Ying in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-02-10 09:03
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The naming ceremony for Astro Ocean's Piano Land is held at the Xiamen International Cruise Center wharf in Xiamen, Fujian province, in September last year. [Photo/Xinhua]

Chinese leisure liners go full steam ahead, forge JVs, create world-class travel ecosystem

The multibillion-dollar Chinese cruise market is evolving rapidly, and a new vista is on the horizon, promising sustained development, huge investments, jobs and significant economic activity, in line with the ongoing consumption upgrade.

The cruise industry's focus is shifting from being a huge source of experience-minded travelers to becoming home to a world-class business, complete with a comprehensive supply chain.

The cruise industry is confident of riding out what it thinks will be a short-term scare of the novel coronavirus epidemic. The Diamond Princess, a ship of Princess Cruises, was anchored in quarantine off Yokohama port, a city south of Tokyo, last week due to some passengers getting infected.

From private firms to State-owned enterprises to international operators, all are going full steam ahead into the lucrative Chinese market, after an extraordinary decade of growth that saw China's cruise lines emerging as the world's second-largest market by passenger volume.

In the first half of 2019, the nation's 13 cruise ports received 1.78 million passenger trips, an industry report said.

Jointly released by the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association, which is under the National Development and Reform Commission, the Asia Cruise Academy of Shanghai Maritime University, and the China Ports & Harbors Association, the report said Chinese travelers' enthusiasm for cruise travel is attracting major operators that will likely bring state-of-the-art vessels to the market.

That's not all. Such vessels will offer services and cabins tweaked to cater to Chinese tastes. For, China remains at the forefront as a key source market that also packs in the highest potential. Despite reported slowdown in industry growth in 2018, China dominated with over 55 percent of Asian cruise passengers.

Players already in the industry are expanding their scope and operations to cover specialized fields such as cruise management, besides venturing into big-ticket areas like shipbuilding.

Costa Group Asia is already talking of "building a robust cruise industry ecosystem". Mario Zanetti, president of Costa Group Asia, said: "When it comes to building a cruise industry supply chain in China, Costa Cruises is committed to working with industry stakeholders and creating a sustainable and thriving cruise industry."

Kent Zhu, president of Genting Cruise Lines, expressed similar intent. "With China gearing up to build a complete supply chain, Genting Cruise Lines remains committed to contributing further toward China's growth in the cruise sector, leveraging on its own internal supply chain."

Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co Ltd, a company controlled by China State Shipbuilding Corporation, kicked off construction of China's first homegrown cruise ship in October 2019.

As China's first self-built cruise ship, the 135,500-metric-ton Vista-class vessel is scheduled for delivery in September 2023. This underscores China's ambition to develop its own shipbuilding capacity in the cruise market, which is dominated by European shipyards, said Wang Yanguo, vice-president of CSSC Cruise Technology Development Co Ltd, a subsidiary of CSSC.

Wikipedia describes a Vista-class ship as one that is "equipped with a diesel-electric power plant and an Azipod propulsion system" and is characterized by "the extensive use of glass in the superstructure". Some 85 percent of a Vista-class ship's staterooms have ocean views and 67 percent have verandas.

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