West Coast New Area

Smooth sailing for the cruise industry

By Yang Feiyue | (China Daily) | 2018-07-03


Star Cruises' ship Superstar Virgo will set off from northern Chinese cities to Japan on one of a series of new routes starting in September and November. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Cruise companies are trying new approaches, including upgraded decor, on-board activities and itineraries, to attract more Chinese.

China recorded nearly 5 million passenger visits last year, up 8 percent year-on-year, the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association reports.

The figure is expected to hit 5.7 million this year.

The number of cruise travelers in the country had previously sustained an annual growth of 40 to 50 percent since 2006.

"Competition is intensifying because everyone is optimistic about the Chinese market," Genting Cruise Lines' senior official Zhou Zhou says.

"China has a huge population. But its cruise-market penetration rate is less than 10 percent of mature markets elsewhere. So, development prospects are promising."

The Hong Kong company's Star Cruises has announced a series of routes starting in northern Chinese cities in September and November.

Trips to Japan's Kagoshima, Fukuoka, Beppu, Nagasaki and Kitakyushu will set out from Liaoning province's Dalian, Tianjin and Shandong province's Qingdao.

There, passengers can enjoy traditional Japanese hot springs and see the Sakurajima Volcano.

The company's shift follows a 30 percent growth in the northern tour market last year, Zhou says.

Star Cruises has also introduced the Japanese cartoon character Doraemon to its Superstar Virgo ship to appeal to Chinese families.

Parents and children can pose for photos in scenes re-created from the cartoon, book themed rooms and enjoy food with elements from the animation, he says.

The company has also launched the Time's Gift program for elderly passengers. It features ballroom dancing, classic movies and free wedding photos, plus tai chi.

Royal Caribbean International plans to engage more Chinese with a new ship and new itineraries next year.

The upgraded vessel will offer family facilities.

The company has also added four destinations to its itineraries, including Vladivostok in Russia, and Niigata and Hakodate in Japan.

The brand will also launch winter routes.

Costa Cruise will send its ship, Venezia, to China next year.

Indeed, cruise operators are working in new ways to get more Chinese on board to ride the rising tide in the country's cruise market.