Costa Cruises, Italy’s largest tourism group and Europe’s number one cruise company, continues to set new industry benchmarks for the Chinese cruise industry. Beginning in January 2010, Costa Cruises will be the first international cruise company operating in China to introduce regular Taiwan cruise itineraries for mainland tour groups, offering a total of 15 cruises throughout the year . The Taiwan cruise itinerary will depart from Hong Kong aboard the Costa Classica to Taiwan’s most appealing cities of Taipei, Keelung and Taichung.

Encouraged by the positive trend of its cruises in China and based on its full confidence and long-term contribution to the Chinese cruise market, Costa Cruises will launch its regular Taiwan itinerary January 31st, 2010. This milestone development for the Chinese cruise industry follows shortly after Costa Cruises became the first industry leader to operate two ships in China simultaneously, further driving the rapid development of China’s modern cruise industry. Following the success of the product marketed in China for four years, Costa Cruises has strengthened its presence in China. In July and August, Costa Classica and Costa Allegra are offering a Japan-Korea route at the same time, home-ported in Shanghai and Tianjin, respectively.

The introduction of regular Taiwan cruise itineraries is a natural holiday product extension for the Italian cruise company. From April to May this year, Costa Cruises has facilitated three direct cross-straits voyages for more than 3,500 top sales representatives from Amway, in Mainland China, to visit Taiwan. While providing each passenger with an unforgettable, passionate and romantic Italian-style cruise holiday, the cross-straits charter cruise has allowed Costa Cruises to gain valuable and sufficient insights and experience into the operations of Taiwan cruise holiday and an even better understanding of the needs of Chinese tourists when visiting Taiwan.

“Two months after the successful completion of Amway chartered cruise to Taiwan, I am extremely delighted to open another brilliant chapter of Costa’s splendid history in China with the introduction of China’s first regular Taiwan cruise itineraries for Mainland tour groups,” said Massimo Brancaleoni, Vice President of Costa Crociere Pacific Asia Operations. “With the broadening of the cross-straits travel policy, Taiwan will be the next charming holiday destination hot-spot for Chinese tourists. Our regular Taiwan cruise itineraries will allow Costa’s strong customer-base in Asia and mainland China the unique opportunity to enjoy a truly wonderful and memorable journey on the sea, the Italian-style, while discovering the splendors of Taiwan’s rich natural, gastronomical and shopping offerings. We will stand firmly on our commitment to providing Chinese tourists with even more new cruise products and services in the future. The introduction of the new regular Taiwan cruise itineraries clearly exemplifies our confidence in China and ambitions to continue to lead in this exciting and dynamic market.”

Margaret Fong, Hong Kong Commissioner for Tourism, said, “We are delighted to see Costa Cruises introducing regular itineraries between Hong Kong and Taiwan, taking full advantage of the new measure for Mainland tour groups to take cruise vessels homeporting in Hong Kong to Taiwan. These cruise itineraries will enrich the travel experience of Mainland visitors on multi-destination trips covering two exciting destinations. The new measure will also reinforce Hong Kong’s position as a regional cruise hub.”

“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Central People's Government agreed on further services liberalization and trade co-operation under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) on 9 May 2009. This brought some breaking news for Costa Cruises, as well as the cross-straits tourism industry”, said Leo Liu, General Manager China of Costa Crociere S.p.A., “Under Supplement VI to the CEPA, cross-straits trip will be open to Mainland tour groups, who hold valid exit and entry permits for traveling to and from Taiwan and travel endorsements, to route through Hong Kong. Costa Cruises, as the first international cruise company to enter the Chinese market, surely see the chances.”

The tourism cooperation across the strait has been vibrant and the tourists from Chinese Mainland to Taiwan have been on a steady rise. According to the China National Tourism Administration, tourists from the Chinese Mainland have made more than 350,000 trips to Taiwan so far after the travel ban was lifted a year ago. Costa Cruises’ regular Taiwan cruise itinerary will depart from Hong Kong during the months of January, February, May and June. The 5-day/4–night cruise holiday will bring Chinese tourists to Taiwan’s port city of Keelung, with off-board day trips to Taipei and Tai Chung. The launch of Costa’s regular cruise itineraries to Taiwan in 2010 will give a boost to local economies in these Taiwanese port cities. It is estimated that these cruises will bring more than 50,000 mainland Chinese tourists to these cities aboard Costa cruises.