Costa Crociere S.p.A., Italy and Europe’s leading international cruise company and the first international cruise company to enter the Chinese cruise market, has today signed a contract with the Shanghai International Port Group Co. Ltd (SIPG) to jointly invest and set up China’s first customer service and consulting firm targeted at the Chinese cruise industry. The contract was signed in Genoa, the city where Costa Cruises has always been headquartered, by Mr Pier Luigi Foschi, Chairman and C.E.O. of Costa Crociere S.p.A, and Mr Lu Hai Gu, Chairman, Shanghai International Port Group Co. Ltd.

The joint venture will be tasked to provide a comprehensive consulting service support to its Chinese travel agents, as well as championing the sales of Costa cruise vacation packages in China and around the world. According to the contract, the business scope of the joint venture includes commercial consulting, tourist information consulting, cruise and passenger shipping information consulting.

Speaking at the signing of the contract, Costa’s Chairman and C.E.O., Mr Pier Luigi Foschi, is confident that the new joint venture company will further support Chinese cruise tourism market, which is growing thanks to Costa’s pioneering role and presence started with Costa Allegra deployment. “China’s cruise market has undoubtly an important growth potential. Shanghai is playing an important role in this sector due to its role of main port and economic center for China. Costa Cruises was the first to believe in offering cruises in China choosing Shanghai as its home port since July 2006. The signing of the contract today with SIPG, China’s largest Port operator, is another key milestone in Costa’s development in China, which from April 2009 will welcome the arrival of a second ship, Costa Classica, operating regularly in Asia. As the first international cruise operator to enter the Chinese market more than two years ago, we are definitely committed to China. This partnership of two industry giants will allow us to leverage on SIPG’s resources to further strengthen our efforts to cultivate and enhance our brand awareness and product knowledge in the local marketplace, educate consumers and introduce the fun, passionate and romantic cruise vacations. The recent completion of the Shanghai International Port Cruise Terminal has put the development of Shanghai’s cruise industry into the fast lane. Costa is willing to work closely with SIPG cruise holidays to build together a more high-quality and sustainable cruise market environment and to promote the development of the Shanghai cruise industry.”

Tourism is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the Chinese economy. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, in 2007 the economic impact of tourism in China amounted to USD 440 billion, i.e. about 6% of the world total generated by tourism. Between 2008 and 2018 this figure should increase, in real terms, at an annual rate of 9.6%. More than 35 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad in 2007. Forecasts indicate that by 2010 there will be more than 50 million Chinese tourists abroad and 100 million by 2020.

Mr Lu Hai Hu, Chairman, Shanghai International Port Group Co. Ltd, added, “Costa Cruises is the pioneer of the cruise industry in China. With more than 60 years of international cruise holiday experience, Costa is crucial to the future development of the Chinese and Shanghai’s cruise tourism industry. Having recently celebrated the Costa Allegra’s 100th voyage in China and becoming the first foreign cruise to enjoy the services of Shanghai International Port Cruise Terminal. Today, I am delighted to partner Costa on this exciting new joint venture and I am personally looking forward to Costa’s next 100th voyage in China and the introduction of even more exciting new cruise vacation products and services for the Chinese tourists.”

As the leading international brand in the Chinese cruise market, Costa fully understands the preferences of Chinese tourists, and has continuously introduced new cruise products to meet the changing demands of the market, thus earning itself a good market response and brand reputation. To date, through it tireless pursuit for high quality services, Costa enjoys a soaring consumer satisfaction rate higher than 98% in the Chinese market.,

Costa remains optimistic about the Chinese cruise economy, and is committed to increasing its investment in China to meet the growing demands in the local marketplace for an enjoyable and memorable cruise vacation. From April 2009, Costa’s Chinese fleet of cruises will welcome its second member, the elegant and sophisticated Costa Classica, which will double Costa’s presence in Asia. At the same time, from next year, Costa will also increase its regular number of voyages in China to 36, including 23 that will depart from its Shanghai mother port.