Xilong Zhang, vice director, China National Tourism Administration

Top Chinese government officials and shipbuilding executives speaking at the China Cruise Shipping conference in Tianjin were bullish on the future of the cruise industry in China, painting a picture of continued rapid development.

"With the growing wealth of the Chinese population, many citizens are looking for new ways to travel. Because of that we are seeing an explosion in the cruise industry in China," said Xilong Zhang, vice director, China National Tourism Administration. "We will continue to provide support for the development of homeports."

Zhang said he was dedicated to developing the cruise industry in Tianjin and across China.

"The coming decade will be the golden era for cruise industry development in China," Zhang said.

"China is among the top three shipbuilders in the world," said Shuanchang Yang, vice director, ministry of industry and information technology. "The shipping industry is in a downward phase, but the cruise industry is the opposite, especially in China."

He also stressed a coming "golden era" of cruise development in China within the next two decades.

"We are trying to build our own cruise ship and develop our own cruise shipbuilding industry," Yang noted. "Smart shipbuilding is currently a core focus."

And Chinese shipbuilders may be poised to take advantage of China's developing cruise sector.

"In the past we had some small ships and now we have 4,000-passenger ships in the market," said Wenming Hu, chairman, China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation.

He said major cities have all introduced cruise-friendly policies to help build up the cruise business in China.

"It's fair to say the cruise industry has become an important component of the economy," Hu said, adding the market needs to be further educated about the cruise product. "I'm certain the cruise industry will continue to be a driver of the Chinese economy."

He said the industry needs to look at itinerary homeport management in China, and further coordination was needed.

"We need more marketing and promotional campaigns to raise the awareness of the industry in China," Hu said. "We need to build a cruise culture that is unique to China ... and encourage consumers to participate."