Focusing on the Asia/Pacific region, including China and Australia, we are smitten by the enthusiasm of the cruise lines and port executives we have spoken to. China is obviously the big story and promises to drive the industry’s growth into the future. The Chinese market is set on an aggressive growth trajectory with more ships, including newbuilds, being deployed.
In addition, Carnival Corporation has a partnership with China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and China Investment Corporation to launch a domestic brand that will eventually build new ships in China by a joint venture between Fincantieri and CSSC.
With SkySea Royal Caribbean is already engaged in a domestic brand in partnership with Ctrip, China’s largest online travel platform, with a one-ship operation that is expected to expand as well.
Cruise Industry News’ forecast calls for at least 4.5 million Chinese passengers by 2020.
And to support the growth, China has four cruise ports operating now, plus another 11 in various stages of development.
Other markets in Northern and Southeast Asia also bear promise of more potential as their middle classes grow.
Down Under, Australia already has the highest penetration of any market, while executives express confidence they can continue to grow by offering more variety of product and by making the ships more accessible (sailing from more homeports). Seventy-five percent of the population is said to be within a two-hour drive of a cruise port.
Furthermore, new ships (Royal Caribbean’s Ovation and P&O’s yet unnamed newbuild) will drive interest.
There will always be bumps in the road, executives admitted, but they are confident they can navigate the growth course they have set.
Angela Reale Mathisen and Oivind Mathisen