China's luxury cruise ship market is preparing to welcome two new international operators, expanding a market that last year experienced a rise of 43 percent in terms of trips available for tourists to take.
Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruises will be sending the 138,000 tonne Voyager of the Seas into China next year, a ship that is twice the size of the company's Legend of the Seas, currently the largest ship working the Chinese routes. Voyager of the Seas will be based out of Shanghai, the main port for the country's cruise ship industry.
Joining the fray also out of Shanghai will be the Victoria, a 75,000-tonne cruise ship operated by the Genoa-based Costa Cruises.
Cruise travel is among the fast-growing options for tourists in China -- and for tourists visiting China. Last year saw 223 cruises visit the country, a year-on-year rise of 43 percent.
Of that number 93 journeyed out from China's coastal cities (a rise of 18.8 percent from 2009) while the remainder ventured into the country from foreign ports.
Overall, 790,000 Chinese tourists chose holidays on cruise ships in 2010 -- up 20 percent -- while 462,000 foreign visitors used cruise liners to visit the country over the same period, a rise of 15.5 percent.
Speaking at the 6th China Cruise Shipping conference -- held in the northern city of Tianjin back in August -- Royal Caribbean Cruises' executive vice-president Michael Bayley said there was "huge, untapped potential" in the market.
Chinese tourism industry leaders certainly agree. The China Tourism Association's vice-president, Wu Wenxue, this week predicted a "golden period" ahead for the industry, according to mainland Chinese media reports.
One major trend in the industry was the hiring of Mandarin-speaking staff by the international operators using Chinese routes -- as more and more Chinese joined their tours.
The Chinese market's increasing pull will be one of the featured topics at the inaugural Cruise Shipping Asia conference, set for November 16-18 at Singapore's Marina Bay Sands resort.
Bayley will be one of the panelists at the conference's "State of the Asian Cruise Industry" seminar and he has been promoting the event on his company's website.
"Asia holds promising opportunities for the cruise industry, and the inaugural Cruise Shipping Asia event gives us all a foothold in shaping what comes next. From port infrastructure development to attracting tourists from around the world, our industry can be instrumental in Asia's future growth," said Bayley.
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