Asia affirmed as fastest growing cruise market at Seatrade Cruise Asia 2016

Monday, 16 May 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The world’s cruise community gathered in Busan, Korea recently for the first day of Seatrade Cruise Asia 2016, to focus on Korea and the wider Asian market and discuss the diversity of sourcing, products and destinations across the region.

Opening the event held at the Busan International Passenger Terminal, Seatrade General Manager Andrew Williams affirmed that the focus on cruise in Asia was timely given that it is the world’s fastest growing market both now, and expected to continue over the next ten years.  Seatrade Asia 2016 itself is bringing together some 1,000 stakeholders from within and beyond Asia to the three day event, he commented.

Taking part in the opening conference session were Buhdy Bok (President, Costa Group Asia, Costa Cruise Asia Pacific and China), Thatcher Brown (President, Dream Cruises), Bruce Krumrine (Vice President, Shore Operations, Holland America Group) and Dr. Zinan Liu (president, North APAC and China, Royal Caribbean International, and Chairman, CLIA North Asia).

Mary Bond, Managing Director of Publishing and Editor, Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Cruise News moderating the opening panel discussion pointed out that an unprecedented nine new builds are specifically destined to come into the Asia/Australasia cruise market by 2020.

Dr. Zinan Liu, President, North APAC and China, Royal Caribbean International and Chairman, CLIA North Asia began by saying that Asia is not an easy cruise market, requiring major commitment from stakeholders. 

He said Asia is the world’s fifth largest market accounting for 9.2% of international cruise ship deployment, measured by available lower berths. “Five years ago cruise travel was almost unheard of in Asia. Today the region is the fastest growing in the global cruise market with 2,080,998 Asian passengers registered in 2015, compared to 1,685,455 in 2014 – representing a 23.5% year-on-year increase,” commented Dr. Liu.

Buhdy Bok, President, Costa Group Asia, Costa Cruises Asia Pacific and China, said quality and price were major considerations influencing growth. Elaborating on how lack of port infrastructure impedes growth, he said itineraries were not being maximised because of congestion through the entire value chain. Bruce Krumrine, VP, Shore Operations, Holland America Group agreed that there it is timely that these downstream issues are being brought up at the conference. “There was a need to increase guest opportunities and build variety,” he urged regional destinations.

Thatcher Brown, President, Dream Cruises of the Genting Group, said what is also critical is ‘people development’ and to develop the industry from a talent perspective. He said education and managing market mix, to deliver a good cruise experience, were also important.

Turning to capacity, Dr. Liu said he does not see excess capacity. He advised players entering the market need to be well-prepared, have the right strategy, and invest in effective distribution in the right markets.

In a lively discussion on customisation for the Asia market, Dr. Liu predicted that Asia will see a spectrum of cruise products, as cruise lines position themselves to serve the market. He said in keeping with market demand, there will probably be a balance between recognisable international and customised ‘local’ offerings.

At a press conference held prior to the opening, participants heard how the Korean cruise industry is bucking the trend of general low economic growth and Busan, in particular, is seeing a wave of growth in the cruise industry commented Gyung-jin Jung, vice mayor, Busan Metropolitan City. Ye-jong Woo, President, Busan Port Authority said the port has seen exponential growth in the past year with some 250 more cruise ships call year-on-year, and has great potential to expand even further. Seatrade Cruise Asia continued on Friday 13 May with two ‘Power Hour’ sessions covering ‘supplying cruise ships in Asia’, and the ‘cruise line-port relationship in North Asia’, as well as an extra session on growing Asian source markets.

Hosted by Busan Port Authority, Busan Metropolitan City and Korea Tourism Organisation, Seatrade Cruise Asia took place 12-13 May at the Busan Port International Passenger Terminal in Busan, Korea. The event features a showcase exhibition, conference and travel agent training. They thank their sponsors, MedCruise and Wonderful Indonesia, and supporters CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.