“We are focused on building up and developing markets to their potential,” said Shanghai-based Dr. Zinan Liu, vice president, China and Asia, for Royal Caribbean Cruises. “We are concentrating on distribution platforms, working with travel partners in Beijing and Shanghai, while also expanding into other areas,” Liu told Cruise Industry News.
“We need to train and motivate travel agents,” he continued, “and we need to develop ports of call.” He said the larger ships are more popular with consumers, but there are only a limited number of ports they can call at. “So we are working with ports in China, (South) Korea and Taiwan. Their response has been very good; they are excited about getting superior tonnage as well. There is a time line for when various ports will be ready for the bigger ships.”
Meanwhile, Liu is also focused on assembling a strong sales and marketing team and recruiting ships’ crew. He said both will contribute to delivering the product and profits.
In addition, he has engaged with the government in China and said the official reaction is very positive. “They see the benefits of cruising to the country. They see the positive value of tourism. Since our customer satisfaction is so high, we are making people happy.”
By 2020, Asia should be producing some 4 million passengers a year, and China alone, more than 1 million, according to Liu. “China will not be as big as Europe in the short-term,” he said, “but give us a few more years.
“You can say capacity is driving growth,” he continued, “but the economic fundamentals are very strong. We have a large middle class of some 100 million people in Beijing, Shanghai and the coastal cities, and it is growing across the country. Our challenge is to create awareness of cruising, but the Chinese learn quickly and are willing to embrace new concepts. And a cruise is aspirational – this is something they want to do and is an opportunity to learn Western ways.
“There is no shortage of people and families wanting to cruise. So in 2015, we will have four ships here.”
The newest is the Quantum of the Seas, which will arrive in June 2015 and sail year-round from Shanghai. This will be the first time a cruise ship sails from Shanghai during the winter. Liu said he is confident it will work as the ship has a lot of indoor spaces.
The Mariner will sail from Shanghai in May and June, before repositioning to Tianjin for the summer. The Legend will sail a mini-season from Xiamen, and the Voyager, which will first be revitalized, will sail from Hong Kong during the summer.
He explained that the reason for the deployment is to maintain sustainable growth. “We did not want to put all the ships into the same port or the same region. Now, we will be sourcing mainly from East China for our cruises from Shanghai, from North China for Tianjin and from South China for Hong Kong.”
Beyond China, Liu is working on the markets of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.