A raft for ASEAN cruising

Cruise development is expected to pick up in South-east Asia with ASEAN agreeing to develop a joint declaration on cruise tourism.

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A raft has been floated for South-east Asia’s cruise development in the form of an agreement among ASEAN tourism ministers to develop a joint declaration on cruise tourism.

The declaration will set out the “principles to spur port and destination development in the region, and further encourage industry stakeholders to collaborate and grow cruise tourism in the region”, according to a joint media statement of the mnisters’ 20th meeting during the recent ATF in Singapore.

Prior to the agreement, Singapore, ASEAN’s lead coordinator for cruise development, held an inaugural cruise dialogue where the ministers heard that the number of cruise passengers in South-east Asia is expected to reach 4.5 million in 2035. Aside from growth potential, the dialogue also cited examples of cruise port development projects around the world and examined how cruise lines and entities like the World Bank could partner the ASEAN member states to support cruise port development.

At ATF’s opening gala dinner, Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong urged ASEAN to build up cruise tourism. Said Lee: “This is growing in popularity in North Asia and Australia. ASEAN is well placed to promote cruise tourism. We have archipelagos in ASEAN to rival the Aegean, the Caribbean or the South Pacific. We have year-round tropical weather and calm waters. We have diverse and attractive destinations within short sailing distances.

“But developing cruise tourism is a multilateral effort. We need to develop port infrastructure to receive bigger and newer ships. We need to work with cruise providers to create attractive alternative itineraries with multiple stops for tourists. Singapore is happy to be the lead coordinator for the ASEAN Cruise Development Initiative. We need to work together closely to make these happen, and harness opportunities under the Cruise South-east Asia brand.”

Singapore as anchor
According to data from Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Singapore saw a 16 per cent increase in cruise passenger throughput to 1.2 million last year at its two cruise terminals. The number of ship calls increased seven per cent from 385 to 411, of which 10 were maiden calls.

As cruising is multilateral, this growth benefits not just Singapore but the region, and the Lion City has long been persuading its neighbours to keep their eyes peeled on the cruise market.

Thatcher Brown, president of Dream Cruises – which announced at ATF the deployment of its Genting Dream for year-round homeporting in Singapore from December 3 – described Singapore’s commitment to the cruise/tourism industry as “steadfast”.

Basing the 151,300-tonne cruise ship with a capacity for over 3,300 passengers in Singapore reflects Dream Cruises’ confidence in the region, he said. Singapore’s excellent cruise and tourism infrastructure and prime geographic location make it the ideal homeport to develop five-night itineraries that can reach multiple ASEAN destinations, he added.

Brown also believed that as the first Asian luxury cruise ship, Genting Dream will soon be “a Singapore and ASEAN icon”, inspiring sophisticated travellers from Singapore and the rest of the region to cruise while enlarging the broader Asia-Pacific fly-cruise market.

The ship will call at more than 10 ports in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in 2018.

Who’s active?
Indonesia and the Philippines are two ASEAN countries that are actively pursuing the cruise market.

Indonesia wants to promote developments in Bali and beyond, and is prioritising infrastructure in five ports – Tanjung Priok, Tanjung Perak, Belawan, Makassar and Benoa Bali – to allow them to berth larger cruise ships. Indonesia is also reviewing the consistency of its immigration clearance across all checkpoints to support the cruise industry.

A new National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy to attract more cruises to the Philippines is underway, focused on adding and improving port facilities, easing entry procedures, creating exciting tour packages and offering new destinations.

This comes on the heels of Star Cruises’ 2,400-pax Superstar Virgo making Manila its homeport – the first cruise ship to do so – from March to May. It will sail on 6D/5N journeys to Laoag in Ilocos Norte, Hong Kong and Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

Tourism undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr, who also heads the Cruise Tourism Development Committee of the Philippines, said a key element of the strategy is to build new dedicated cruise facilities, especially in Manila.

“A superior cruise port and terminal in the capital, with its extensive airlift and ground facilities, will create a compelling reason for large ships to (dock in) the Philippines,” explained Bengzon.

Commissioned by the US Agency for International Development and the Philippine Department of Tourism (DoT), the draft cruise strategy presented by Chart Management Consulting also identified developments in the Turquoise Triangle linking Manila, Boracay and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.

A potential cruise destination in the north of Luzon, where ships departing East Asian hubs can arrive after one day at sea, was also pinpointed in the strategy.

With Superstar Virgo making 15 voyages from Manila, the DoT expects a growth in port calls in the Philippines this year to at least 105 with 86,000 pax, up from 72 port calls with 72,350 pax last year. – Additional reporting by Rosa Ocampo

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This article was first published in TTG Asia March 2017 issue. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.

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