Industry Leaders Confident on China Growth Prospects

Presidents and CEOs from all the major cruise brands operating in Asia all underlined the potential of the Chinese cruise industry at the China Cruise Shipping conference and trade show in Tianjin, speaking directly to government officials, media and other delegates.

“We are very confident about the potential here,” said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, which also signed a deal on Friday to build two cruise ships in China.

“The market will see significant growth over the next decade,” Donald noted.

Donald said Carnival was helping to build a domestic and profitable industry in China, noting that the AIDA and Carnival Cruise Line brands will join the Chinese market “in the next few years.”

“To continue to build this market we need to communicate what cruising is all about,” Donald continued. “Carnival Corporation is committed to China and building honorable enduring relationships with our Chinese partners. We recognize new markets take time to develop.”

Part of that development will also be simplifying the process of leaving and returning to China for Chinese Citizens, Donald advised.

Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, said China was the most interesting development “of our times” for those that had devoted their careers to the cruise industry.

“The growth potential is immense,” said Goldstein.

Alan Buckelew

Alan Buckelew, COO of Carnival Corporation, highlighted Carnival Corporation’s growth in China since starting out in 2006 with the Costa Allegra.

“We’re all very excited about the future of China and cruising in this country,” said Buckelew.

Colin Au

Colin Au, advisor and founding president of Genting Hong Kong, also spoke, making his first appearance at China Cruise Shipping.

Au said the industry had come a long way since Star Cruises started up in the 1990s, when the product experience involved fixed seating times.

“We believed we needed to combine Chinese and western styles and create a vacation focused on freedom,” Au said. He explained the so-called freedom (i.e. Freestyle) model drove profit, so Genting re-invested the money and built new ships.

Now, attention has turned to the start-up Dream Cruises brand which will take delivery of its first ship in October, said Au, noting the potential of the Chinese market.

“The current cruise industry is designed on the Western vacation preferences,” Au said. “There have not been ships and products designed for the Chinese.”

Genting is among the companies promising ships built to Chinese preferences, with two ships for Dream and two more bigger ships for Star Cruises following in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Au said generally, bigger was better when it came cruise ships, however, in China, newer is better.

“So we need to build new ships that are big and new and offer a wide range of activities,” Au said.

Frank del Rio

Frank del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, said the rapid growth in China will continue.

“China will eventually (pass) the United States as the largest cruise market,” said del Rio.

Norwegian’s executive team was among the most accessible at China Cruise Shipping.

When the Norwegian Joy arrives in Shanghai next June, del Rio said every space on the ship has been designed for Chinese guests.

“We’re going to great lengths to make sure the Norwegian Joy is the perfect ship for our Chinese guests,” said del Rio.

Norwegian will move into new offices in China in October, with room for up to 60 employees, said del Rio.

Gianni Onorato

MSC Cruises President and CEO Gianni Onorato said the company intends to continue to grow in China, recently confirming the MSC Splendida will arrive in the market in 2018 to join the MSC Lirica.

Onorato said the company’s goal is to carry 5 million passengers per year globally with growth targets not only in China but in North America and Europe as well.

“We have plans to further develop our presence in China,” said Onorato.

Min Fan

Min Fan, president and CEO of SkySea Cruise Line, pointed to developing his new brand over the last year and a half. Music theme cruises have been good for brand recognition, said Fan, also noting he had tremendous support from partner Royal Caribbean Cruises to build up the SkySea brand.

“There is something missing,” said Fan. “For agents, there are not enough passengers and there is over capacity, but that is part of the growing process.”

Fan said that most passengers are not seeing the ships as a destination itself, and said agents are attracting customers with shore excursion products.

“But that will be adjusted in the next three to five years with better hardware and software (in the market),” said Fan, adding that the market is large enough in China for companies to develop niches for themselves.

He also hinted that China will become an import outbound market for the cruise lines, perhaps hinting at future plans for expanded deployment – outside China – for SkySea.

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