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11 Feb, 2013

China Focus: Western cruises entertain more Chinese


BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) — Foreign cruise companies are making inroads into China’s tourism market, finding that many Chinese are eager to set sail for new destinations.

Shanghai resident Ding Yun recently booked a cruise for her parents for the Spring Festival holiday. The “Legend of the Seas” cruise, provided by Royal Caribbean Cruises, will take her parents to ports in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

“My parents are really excited and looking forward to the journey. I think more people would enjoy taking cruises during the holidays if they learned more about them,” Ding said.

Zhang Zhendong, general manager of the Tianjin International Cruise Home Port in north China, said the port processed 79,000 passengers in 2012, setting a new record for the port.

“The number of voyages has increased at the port in recent years,” Zhang said. “The harbor is expected to see 47 voyages in 2013, while the figure was only five in 2011 and 19 in 2012.”

During last year’s National Day holiday, Royal Caribbean Cruises operated two cruises out of the cities of Tianjin and Shanghai, respectively, carrying more than 3,000 Chinese to destinations abroad.

According to the World Trade Organization, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member countries and the Asia-Pacific region will see cruises grow rapidly in popularity, providing not only new destinations for Western tourists, but also a new source of Asian tourists.

Zhang Jiqing, general manager of the China Ocean Shipping Agency, said more international cruise carriers are transferring their business centers to Asian countries, adding that the number of cruise passengers in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow from 1.5 million people in 2010 to 2 million in 2015.

Beijing resident Zhao Juan previously considered cruises to be extravagant and unnecessary, but has since changed her mind.

“A trip at sea is entertaining in itself. Considering the accommodation and transportation fees, the cost of a cruise is not necessarily too expensive,” Zhao said.

Some cruise operators have made efforts to cater to Chinese customers, offering services in Chinese and food that appeals to Chinese tastes.

Staff on the cruise ship for the “Voyage of the Seas” cruise come from a variety of countries. The ship is set to increase the number of Chinese staff it employs when it sets off from Chinese ports.

A cruise shift staffer surname He said he has enjoyed working on the ship, as it allows him to travel around the world, as well as enjoy a decent income and two months off each year.

Although cruises are becoming more popular in China, the government has yet to include them in its overall economic development plan, nor has it made regulations concerning the sector’s development in China, according to cruise and yacht expert Zheng Weihang.

Zheng said the government should create a plan to guide the industry’s development, including setting goals for its growth, laying out ports, setting cruise routes and purchasing ships.

Zheng also said public ports and waiting areas for passengers should be built in order to meet port development needs.