The first international brand to enter the cruise market in China, Costa Crociere can be thought of as a market leader since starting operations in 2006.

“For the Chinese consumer, the idea of a cruise holiday was brand new. We spared no effort during the past nine years to educate the market,” said Buhdy Bok, president of Costa Asia.

Bok admitted there was no shortage of challenges in promoting and developing the Costa China product.

According to statistics, said Bok, four out of 10 cruise reservations in China are made for Costa ships. He said since 2006, over 1 million Chinese passengers have taken cruises with Costa, with customer satisfaction coming in at 98 percent.

Earlier this year, the brand launched China’s first world cruise, tailor-made for Chinese guests and leaving from Shanghai on the Costa Atlantica.

“This demonstrates the lynchpin of our Asia strategy over the next couple of years and heralds a new milestone in China’s cruise industry,” Bok said.

In 2016 Costa will introduce a 46-day South Pacific cruise, which will take Chinese guests to 14 ports in nine countries.

As the Chinese market gains traction, Costa is facing both more foreign and local competition.

“This is an exciting scene for the overall development of the cruise industry in China,” said Bok. “The entry of local players caters to local needs, while the foreign cruise lines offer more choices for the passengers who expect to experience the international lifestyle.”

Bok said he was happy to see some Chinese passengers returning, becoming frequent cruisers. With forecasts targeting 4.5 million cruise passengers by 2020, Costa may be sitting in the best position of the Western brands operating in China.

“The market is expected to be more vibrant with more brands and more ships,” said Bok. “Costa continues to see itself as an international brand of great value with our product greatly welcomed by Chinese passengers. We will stick to our ‘Italy at Sea’ strategy and continue to adjust our product to the needs of the local market.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2015