Hong Kong readies for cruise boom

CRUISING interest is gathering steam in Hong Kong, with Kai Tak Cruise Terminal’s first berth set to open in June and the recent announcement by Carnival Corporation for a Hong Kong office to support its Asian expansion.

Tourism veteran Nancy Chung – currently the managing director for Cruise Vacations, the international sales agent for Princess Cruises and Cunard since 2007 – has been appointed the regional director for Princess Cruises to lead the company’s commercial operations, sales and marketing activities in the region.

Eyeing the lucrative inbound cruise traffic, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has created new excursion programmes and will subsidise travel consultants to re-package their local tour offers – details are expected to be revealed soon.

Said HKTB’s newly appointed general manager of MICE & cruise, Kenneth Wong: “In addition to practising tai chi or feng shui at Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck, authentic tours like Cook Like a Local takes visitors to wet markets (where they can) shop for ingredients prior to cooking in a studio nearby.”

However, industry players also brought up several critical issues facing Hong Kong’s cruise sector.

Speaking at the inaugural Seatrade Hong Kong Cruise Forum held in Hong Kong last week, Carnival Asia chairman and CEO, Pier Luigi Foschi, said: “Cruise programmes are offered well in advance but Asians book very close to the sail date. Moreover, the freedom to travel, i.e. visas, is vital for the growth of cruise.”

Asia Cruise Association, chairman, Zinan Liu, agreed: “The Chinese Central Government has approved for Chinese tourists to cruise from Hong Kong to Vietnam, and for Taiwan to be combined with South Korea and Japan. However, the recent Sino-Japanese dispute has had great impact on us as we were unable to make the best use of the governmental permit to develop cruises to Taiwan and Japan. We should therefore develop new itineraries around the South China Sea.”

He added that what was needed was the support of local governments to invest in port infrastructure and build terminals before the market was ready.

“Apart from Japan, we need enthusiasts in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines,” said Liu.

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