Asia’s cruising scene heats up as more international ships arrive, helping to also cultivate outbound markets
Travel consultants in Hong Kong are gearing up to sell more cruises as they anticipate an even bigger market with the opening of the country’s new Kai Tak terminal next year. Last month, Worldwide Cruise Terminals Consortium was finally announced as the terminal’s operator and manager.
Crystal Cruises, regional sales manager, Asia-Pacific, Marnie Whipple, said: “(The new terminal) shows the commitment of Hong Kong to provide superior berthing (facilities) for cruise ships. Increased cruise visits – and simply greater visibility of ships in the harbour – help to build awareness and lead to more queries.”
The refurbished Crystal Serenity recently called at Hong Kong, while Crystal Symphony will visit the city for three days in 2013. “In 2014, both ships will call on Hong Kong on expanded 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-day itineraries, plus longer combination cruise options,” said Whipple.
The number of ships calling at Hong Kong in 2013 is not yet available, but confirmed cruise liners include Queen Mary 2, Seabourn Pride, Celebrity Millennium and Azamara Journey, according to a Tourism Commission spokesman.
To tap the Asian market, UK-based Cunard Lines appointed Cruise Vacations – led by cruise expert Nancy Chung – as its GSA in Hong Kong and Macau in 2010. Earlier this year, Chung set up an office in Seoul “to manage and build rapport for Cunard” due to the significant size of the South Korean market. Last year, she appointed a GSA in Jakarta to oversee the growing Indonesian market.
Memory Holidays, a subsidiary of Lotus Travel Group, also recently launched the GeoTraveller Cruise Center, a brand that aims to lead the cruise vacation industry through product innovation.
Meanwhile, travel trade members said they preferred to keep the existing cruise terminal in operation, even when Kai Tak opens in mid-2013. Kai Tak’s second berth is set to be completed in 2014.
Wharf Holdings, which has been managing the popular Ocean Terminal since 1966, is still negotiating with the government to renew the lease expiring on June 15. – Prudence Lui
Whipple: longer trips in pipeline
The Philippines Department of Tourism (DoT) is eyeing a greater slice of the lucrative cruise travel industry as more international liners call at the destination.
The 694-guest Azamara Quest, part of the Royal Caribbean International (RCI) fleet, made its maiden call at Manila on March 28. (Although at press time, the ship had to cut short its 17-day itinerary due to a fire.)
RCI’s 2,074-guest Legend of the Seas will also visit Manila before making its inaugural call in Boracay this October, a rare win for the Philippines which hardly receives ships of this size. And ships like Classic International Cruises’ Princess Danae are visiting new ports like Davao, where it called at this week. The majority of its 371 passengers opted to take a city tour, said DoT regional director Art Boncato.
Despite underdeveloped port facilities compared to Hong Kong and Singapore, the country is keen to pursue the cruise segment as it is “a resilient market”, said Maria Corazon Jorda-Apo, who heads DoT’s North America and Asia-Pacific teams. The NTO is participating in major cruise shows, as well as collaborating with ASEAN counterparts in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to invite more ships into South-east Asia.
Cruise tourism has been identified as one of the priorities within the National Tourism Development Plan, with plans underway to move cargo business away from Manila’s South Harbor to pave the way for better cruise liner-ready facilities. The deepwater port of Subic is also being positioned as a cruise destination.
Business is getting noticeably better, said Carla Mariano, groups manager, Blue Horizons Travel & Tours. “Last year, we handled three ships; this year, we’ve already handled seven ships in the first quarter.”
Most ships coming to the Philippines bring about 300-400 pax, and some call at as many as four ports in the country, such as the Spirit of Adventure which visited Palawan, Cebu, Manila and Subic.
Orion II, which sails in July, will also make stops in Puerto Galera in Mindoro and Coron in Palawan, and Fuji Maru is expected to visit in May and November. – Marianne Carandang
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