- Major cruise lines are intensifying deployment in the region
- Home-grown cruise lines are emerging
- India shows stronger potential as a cruise region and source market
Asia-Pacific’s cruise industry is enjoying a strong revival in 2022-2023, and will likely welcome an upbeat 2024, given the gradual return of cruise lines to the region, according to Chart Management Consultants’ research findings that were shared during the recent Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific conference in Hong Kong.
Chart Management Consultants is a specialist business consulting firm serving the global cruise shipping industry.
Principal of Chart, Ted Blamey, said cruise recovery in South-east Asia has been “building well, principally out of Singapore”, while East Asia still has a way to go, with Japan being the only country with “real cruise activity”.
He noted that Japan’s Yokohama had the most calls in East Asia – 66 turnarounds – while 72 Japanese ports had transit calls.
Over in South Asia, there has been a “real boost” in cruising, thanks to home-grown operations by Cordelia Cruises in India.
Asia for Asians
Ponant, a French-flagged luxury cruise line, is seeing strong interest coming out of Asian markets. CEO Herve Gastinel said passengers are now “eager to sail closer to home, so intra-Asia (sailings) are growing in interest”.
“Asia-Pacific is our key priority as business revenue grew from zero to 20 per cent within a decade, and the current size of business is 80 per cent above 2019. We currently have four ships sailing in Asia, and have just acquired another ship to fuel future growth,” shared Gastinel.
Ponant’s 30-guest boutique motor yacht, Paspaley Pearl, is set to commence her inaugural Kimberley season in June 2024, offering year-round operations through Australia’s Kimberley region, Indonesia’s Raja Ampat and Spice Islands, and Papua New Guinea. Reservations open this month.
Ponant is not the only cruise line to build an Asia-Pacific-centric programme. With the reopening of China, South Korea and Japan, major international cruise lines have announced deployment in this region from 2023 to 2025.
Costa Serena will offer 23 sailings from India this November to January 2024; Holland America’s Noordam will sail East and South-east Asia with nine different 14-day itineraries between September 2024 and April 2025; MSC Cruises’ MSC Splendida will sail from Shenzhen for the winter of 2024; Royal Caribbean Group will deploy Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice and Millennium to Asia in 2024, calling at Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and India.
More to join the high seas
Fans of cruise tourism keen to try something new may be spoilt for choice.
China’s Adora Cruises, a new brand developed in a partnership between Carnival Corporation and China State Shipbuilding Corporation, formally received Adora Magic City on November 4. It is said to be China’s first domestically-made large cruise ship. Adora Magic City will commence cruising from Shanghai in January 2024 while the cruise line’s second new-build undergoes design and construction.
In Japan, local firm Mitsui OSK Lines has a new ship in its fleet – Mitsui Ocean Fuji, which was the former Seabourne Odyssey purchased from Seabourn Cruises in March 2023. Mitsui Ocean Fuji will join Mitsui OSK’s Nippon Maru.
Head of cruise business unit, Shoichiro Yamashita, told TTG Asia, that the new ship will “capture international traffic” initially and has a goal of establishing 30 per cent of business from foreign passengers. It will set sail in late-2024, going “around the world at the beginning” before calling at regional Asian ports eventually.
“Cruising is not well recognised in Japan yet, and overall passenger volume in Japan is only around 300,000 per year,” remarked Yamashita, who quickly added that the company is confident of growth. Mitsui OSK has ordered two new ships to fuel its expansion.
Indian premium cruise liner, Cordelia Cruises, will sail to Dubai next summer.
Lion Travel, general manager, cruise development, Sally Riu, said home-grown cruising in Taiwan is still at its infancy, although cruise tourism adoption among Taiwanese consumers is advancing, with more young patrons and greater interest in seasonal charters.
“Home-grown cruise brands will take 10 to 20 years to build know-how. Perhaps the industry can start by engaging ferry operators serving offshore islands within Taiwan,” Riu suggested.
Strong Indian cruise potential
Cruise agent GAC Group’s marketing manager, Jasem Zaiton, observes a wind of change sweeping through India’s cruise tourism. While there used to be limited activity in India prior to 2019, the rise of home-grown cruising, led by Jalesh Cruises and then the entry of Cordelia Cruises, has sparked off interest in cruise holidays.
“It is predicted that India’s cruise passenger volume (covering river cruises, local cruises and ocean cruises) will hit 50 million by 2047, and it is not surprising for India to reach one million by 2027,” said Zaiton.
He added: “Government’s ambition to bring back cruise tourism is obvious. It has rationalised the rate of port, making India possibly the cheapest and most cost-effective port for domestic cruise operations.”
Indian travellers are also becoming a more attractive source market for cruise lines. Resorts World Cruises’ president Michael Goh said high-end cruising demand out of India is on the rise post-lockdown. Indian guests are “looking for private space” while on a cruise, feeding demand for top-end suites onboard.
There are also more business events being hosted on cruises, with planners “specifically hungry for theming”. A party onboard was designed for about 600 Indian passengers recently.
Goh said: “It is vital for us to understand consumer behaviour. If we were to only go the conventional way, we’d never be able to expand the cruise market.”