Asia’s waters will see even more cruise activity in 2012. TTG Asia examines several expansion plans*
Executive vice president
Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCC)
Homeporting, deployment plans in Asia The regional capacity of Royal Caribbean International will more than double with the Voyager of the Seas joining the Legend of the Seas in Asia. It will be the largest ship to homeport at Singapore’s new cruise terminal, commencing a series of South-east Asian cruises in May. The ship will then move to China and offer North Asian cruises from June to October. Premium brand Celebrity Cruises will also introduce Celebrity Millennium in Asia with cruises between Singapore and Hong Kong.
Asia as a source market Around half of RCC’s customers are from North America, with the rest coming from Europe (30 per cent), Asia (10 per cent) and Latin America (10 per cent). We have about 200,000 to 250,000 Asian customers a year. The Asian market is growing in double, triple digits every year, from a very small base. This year, the Chinese market will grow around 160 per cent because of the Voyager of the Seas. I predict the number of people cruising in Asia-Pacific will go up to 11 million by 2030, up from over one million now.
Investment on marketing, training We’ve invested disproportionately in the Asian market, opening five sales and marketing offices in China, Singapore and Australia over the last three to four years. We are investing in sales teams, training, collateral, communication, advertising and brochures. We also have an online training portal. We have to work hard to explain to travel professionals what cruising is and how to sell it. Travel consultants have always been the core of our success. In North America, they account for the lion’s share of our distribution.
Challenges The lack of knowledge in developing markets. People either have no perception or the wrong perception of what cruising is all about. They believe it’s for old people, that there’s nothing to do, that it’s very expensive. This year is looking relatively positive despite the uncertainty in Europe. All our research confirms that during difficult times, people will give away other things but want to protect their vacation. We’ve always been quite happy because cruise stacks up as the top option against land-based vacations when you add up the costs.
Homeporting, deployment plans in Asia We are deploying a bigger ship to Asia for our 2012 South-east Asian and China-South Korea-Japan itineraries in view of the robust demand. Costa Victoria has 40 per cent more capacity than Costa Classica, the existing ship plying Asian waters. Costa Victoria arrives in late May. This year, Costa will introduce a wider choice of cruises lasting seven nights or less, which Asian passengers often prefer owing to their lack of generous leave compared to their European counterparts.
Asia as a source market Currently, less than 10 per cent of Costa Crociere’s business is derived from Asia. However, we would like to grow this to 15 to 20 per cent in the long run. The Asian market definitely has a lot of room for growth, and we expect this growth to be driven by Greater China. However, we are also looking at Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia as source markets.
Investment on marketing, training We will work closely with local tourism organisations to combat the challenges of marketing cruises to Asians. We want to develop both the Aida and Costa brands in Asia, and ensure their marketing strategies complement one another. Costa has developed online training websites for both Japanese and South Korean travel professionals. Our website is also accessible in a variety of Asian languages including Mandarin, Japanese and South Korean.
Challenges The biggest issue to date is definitely distribution – it is simply not mature enough. The trade’s knowledge and experience in selling cruises is lacking, and this has a strong impact on how fast the cruise market in
Asia develops. Marketing directly to customers is a possibility but this is very expensive and difficult due to the geographic spread of the region. Moreover, as the cruise industry
in Asia is still in its infancy, a lot of time has to be spent educating consumers and convincing them to take a cruise.
Senior vice president,
UK, Europe & Asia-Pacific Silversea Cruises
Homeporting, deployment plans in Asia We deploy the Silver Shadow (382 guests) here for seven months of the year, and that pattern will stay. One way we could increase capacity is move one of our bigger ships here. As a company, we are looking at a new build that would likely be of the same size as the Silver Spirit, 540 guests. A year-round ship in Asia is also something we should consider. Our development in the region is two-fold: create itineraries of different durations and find small ports. We tested shorter, seven-day cruises to Bali last year.
Asia as a source market Asia-Pacific accounts for almost 20 per cent of Silversea’s business (the luxury cruise operator carries some 65,000 passengers a year). Within Asia-Pacific, Asian markets represent 25 per cent. Japan and China deliver the biggest volumes, but we’re also building business in the smaller, sophisticated markets of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Singapore grew by 50 per cent this year compared to the previous year and Hong Kong recorded about 25 to 30 per cent year-on-year growth.
Investment on marketing, training We really have to address education and training. As an industry, we do this collectively through the Asia Cruise Association. Silversea will also launch our online academy in Asia by mid-year. Certificates will be awarded at each stage and incentives will be offered. We are also working on rolling out a Mandarin version of our website this year. In addition, we conduct training seminars in the region almost every month; use our ship for travel specialist showcases and pay for them to host their clients; and organise fam trips.
Challenges We don’t have any increases in capacity in 2012, so passenger numbers will remain quite static. The airlines are also charging a premium for business-class services from North America and Europe. When the ship comes in February, we’ll likely see a higher percentage of Australians and Asians because of the air situation and the slowdown in Europe. However, cruising is still in its infancy here. There are a lot of distribution issues, and not many travel professionals specialise in luxury travel. The mentality in Asia is volume and price.
President of Seabourn and executive vice president, marketing, sales & guest programmes of Holland America Line (HAL)
Homeporting, deployment plans in Asia HAL’s three ships deployed in Asia – Volendam, Amsterdam and Rotterdam – will have six itineraries and 10 departures this year, up from three departures in 2011. In 2013, HAL will offer seven itineraries and 11 departures. Seabourn – which deploys Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Odyssey here – will include more Asian destinations for 2012/2013. Cambodia has been added, while those to Indonesia go beyond Bali to places like Sumba. There are eight itineraries, two world cruises and 24 departures.
Asia as a source market I am unable to provide details of existing business figures and projections in Asia, but we understand the value and importance of the Asian market. We are extremely optimistic that this sector will continue to evolve and grow. Both HAL and Seabourn attract guests from Asian markets that have sizeable affluent populations who speak English such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, as well as China.
Investment on marketing, training HAL’s online academy for travel consultants has seen about 13,000 graduates to date. Seabourn will be rolling out an online academy over the next few months. We have to do a better job of helping the trade to understand the USPs of our brands. It is very difficult for a travel consultant to discover what sets apart the different products without proper training. We will also continue with our marketing efforts through our GSAs, as well as through direct mailers to clients. There will also be fam trips.
Challenges While there may be a global recession, people still view travelling as a right. They are not going to give up on their dream vacation. Instead, they are going to go on high-value vacations – value does not equate to price – something that matches what the consumer wants. Hence, there is a need to provide the proper education and training for travel consultants, so that they are able to sell better, articulate the difference between our various cruise products, and interpret and communicate value to a customer in a way that is compelling.
Additional reporting from Brian Higgs and Linda Haden