The Asia Cruise Association (ACA) provides a platform and forum for both the industry and destinations in Asia, according to ACA Chairman Rama Rebbapragada, who is also regional vice president, international, at Royal Caribbean Cruises. “We are engaging governments, port authorities, tourism boards and the travel trade on an industry level,” he explained.
“Our priorities are to raise consumer awareness and to get the trade to sell more cruises, while also working with governments and regulatory bodies. Some (governments) are on a fast track, others don’t even have cruising on their radar screen yet. We are working to ease visa and immigration requirements and to facilitate passenger movements. The goal is to have a standard set of practices. We are also working to communicate the positive impact of the cruise industry,” he added.
Founded in 2009, the ACA has nine cruise line members and 28 associate members, and has an office in Singapore.
ACA recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association (CCYIA) and the two organizations will work together to promote cruising to Chinese consumers and trade and on regulatory issues affecting travel and cruising.
“ACA as a whole will continue to focus on all of Asia from Japan and Korea to India. We are working with similar associations in other countries,” Rebbapragada said. An Asia Cruise Terminal Operators Network (ACTON) has also been formed, with 12 members so far, located in China, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Rebbapragada said that in Singapore and Hong Kong, the tourism boards have been very supportive, and both destinations are building new cruise facilities. Singapore is also an active member in the ASEAN Cruise Working Group. But more destinations need to upgrade port facilities, he said.
But developing new markets takes time and growth will be driven by deployment. For now, he Rebbapragada said, Costa has one ship year-round; Royal Caribbean, one; Star Cruises, one ship, that sails three- and four-day cruises (the others sail one and two days); and there are four Japanese ships, when they are in the region, he said.
“Before, all we had to show were brochures. Now, we have ships and can arrange ship visits and special events. It makes a big difference being able to invite trade or consumers onboard a ship.”