15 minutes with…Helen Huang, General Manager China, Costa Crociere SpA

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Helen Huang is the General Manager of Costa Asia and most recently attended the Asian Cruise Forum. The line has been operating in the region since 2006, received the Best Cruise Line Award at this year’s inaugural Asia Cruise Forum Awards in Jeju Korea.

 

  1. Were you surprised to be named Asia’s Best Cruise Line? Is this the first time that Costa has won the award?

We are glad to be named “Asia’s Best Cruise Line” at the 2015 Asia Cruise Forum in Jeju, Korea, and we feel very honored to be the first winner of the inaugural Asia Cruise Awards and to receive our first award in Korea.

In the past few years, Costa Asia has also won similar awards in the region.

In 2013, Costa Asia was named “Cruise of the Year” by Travel Agent Magazine and Leader of China Business Travel’s “Featured Cruise of the Year” by China Business News.

These awards recognise Costa Asia’s position as an industry leader and affirm our continuous efforts in providing quality cruising products in the region.

Since 2006, Costa Cruises brings a unique “Italy at Sea” atmosphere to guests in Asia Pacific and China through rich and immersive onboard experience in Italian culture – from hospitality, to cuisine, and to art.

Costa’s European style of cruise holiday is well received by our Asian guests and the interest for this European cruising style is still growing.

Costa Asia is optimistic about the growth prospects in the region and is vigorously expanding our market share.

 

  1. What is Costa’s secret in winning the award?

Costa Asia’s unique and exclusive experience for the guests is the key to stand out in the industry. Additionally, Costa constantly develops customized and innovative products and programs that suit different tastes and needs.

To satisfy travellers’ demand for unique and exclusive experience, Costa Asia provides a distinctive “Italy at Sea” program where guests can immerse themselves in the Italian culture through food, wine, activities as well as the look and the feel of our ships.

Each ship is themed around a different aspect of the Italian culture.

In terms of itinerary, Costa Asia tailors its itineraries with the most popular destinations and the most suitable duration for the Asian market.

We provide mostly short haul cruises of around four to six days. While seeing a gradual demand shift from short haul cruises to longer-haul experiences, Costa is also developing a diversity of cruises for our guests lasting for a week or more.

Onboard, our crew speaks the local languages, we serve Asian cuisine we have customised entertainment activities designed to suit local taste.

 

  1. With the sharp growth of the Chinese cruise market, is Costa planning to have more ships based in China? Are you planning to have Chinese only cruise ships to cater for the growing number of Chinese cruisers? Do you see China as a destination market too?

To accommodate the growing demand in China and Asia Pacific, Costa Asia has almost tripled the capacity from 2011 to 2014 by double positioning of Costa Victoria and Costa Atlantica in the region.

Encouraged by the positive growth, Costa Serena joins the Costa Asia fleet and increase 78% brand capacity this year. In April 2016, Costa Fortuna will be deployed in the region and further increase the company’s regional capacity by 49%.

In general, the majority of Costa guests come from the homeport city and its nearby countries, so Costa Asia provides customised cruises to cater Asia passengers, including China.

Recently, Costa Asia launched its first 86-day Asia World Cruise on Costa Atlantica in March 2015 customised to passengers from greater China and Asia. The cruise brought passengers to 28 popular ports in 18 countries and regions with tailor-made onboard programs for Chinese and Asian guests.

Costa Atlantica will also be launching another 46-day trans-Pacific cruise on 30 November 2016. The cruise will bring Guests to various islands in the Pacific and Oceania. Starting from Tianjin, the cruise will be travelling to 14 destinations, including interesting destinations like Jeju (Korea), Fukoka (Japan), Saipan (US), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and many more.

We see China more of a source market and a destination, as the majority of our Chinese guests embarking from Shanghai & Tianjin.

 

  1.  Are travel agents sufficiently trained to handle on-shore excursions from international visitors?

Costa Asia carefully selects quality and experienced land operators to handle on-shore excursions for our guests with strict requirements from our operating manual. Moreover, tour guides from our land operators must fulfill certain requirements, including fluency in specific languages, knowledge of history and culture of country visiting, having friendly attitude when hosting tours, ability to handle issues and emergency situations, etc.

Costa Asia monitors the quality and performance of its on-shore excursions regularly and provides feedback to land operators

 

  1. What about South East Asia – do you see growing interest in cruise and does Costa have any expansion plans there?

The growth trend in the Asian cruising industry continues to rise rapidly, especially in South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and other nearby countries.

As more Asian travellers are becoming educated on the benefits of a cruise holiday, the demand and interest for hassle-free and relaxed vacation is increasing, especially among families. As cruise holiday are provided in all-inclusive packages, which all meals, accommodation and entertainment are included, so that families can focus on spending quality time with their loved ones.