The Asia cruise scene is on the cusp of dramatic growth, according to industry experts. In 2015, twenty-six cruise lines will operate a total of 981 cruises through the region, with short itineraries between 2-6 nights making up 80 per cent of demand.
In November last year, the Asia Cruise Association, which has now become CLIA Southeast Asia, estimated the total Asia market could grow to four million in 2020, up from 1.3 million passengers in 2012.
ASEAN Cruise News spoke exclusively to six industry experts who assured us 2015 will be an exciting time for cruise in all categories with more on board activities, ‘virtual’ views, faster internet speeds, and world-class restaurants – just to name a few.
Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia and chairman of CLIA Southeast Asia predicts continued growth in ocean and river cruising, with her eyes set clearly on Singapore.
“Singapore is the hub for growth in Southeast Asia and the clear beneficiaries are Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia,” she said.
“Again confirming that port infrastructure is a key to growth, the Marina Bay Cruise Terminal in Singapore has played a significant role in attracting ships to these source markets. We will continue to grow source markets in Singapore and surrounding countries including Australia. The appeal of cruising in South East Asia for Australians should not be underestimated.”
Sherry remains optimistic about growth in Southeast Asia, attributing travel agents as boosting confidence and interest in the consumer.
“CLIA is certainly actively considering ramping up training for the trade,” she explains. “Establishing efficient and effective distribution channels is also vital to cruise industry growth in the region. As these channels expand we will see more and more people choosing to cruise.”
When asked personally where everyone should be travelling in 2015, Sherry reveals, “Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island.”
Mr Ang Moo Lim, Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Hotels, Genting Hong Kong Limited (parent company for Star Cruises) is also optimistic, remarking on the geographical advantage of Southeast Asia and the seamless nature of cruising.
“The region also remains an attractive cruise destination with many rich exotic locations and heritage sites. With an expanding consumer base in Southeast Asia, we observed an evolving change in lifestyle and holiday choices among travellers, opting for a stress-free vacation, which makes the all-inclusive cruise holiday a growing popular choice.”
Star Cruises’ optimism in the industry is no clearer than in the development of two new luxury cruise ships in 2015 worth around US$1billion respectively.
“These 18 deck luxury cruise ships can accommodate up to 4,500 passengers featuring a variety of international restaurants and bars, a state-of-the-art modern theatre, world-class recreational facilities that include aqua slides, kids’ waterpark and over 1,000sqm of designed floor area for the ultimate luxury retail experience at sea,” says Mr Ang.
These cruise ships will be permanently homeported in Asia by 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Royal Caribbean’s Managing Director of Singapore & SEAsia, Jennifer Yap believes 2015 is the year for Quantum of the Seas, the largest to set sail into Asia.
“2015 will be a very exciting year for the cruising scene in Southeast Asia,” Ms Yap said.
“With the arrival of the new and most revolutionary Quantum of the Seas as one of the biggest highlights, which will redefine cruising in the region not only with her first-at-sea amenities but also her size which will be the largest in Asia.
“At the same time, Royal Caribbean International will be going year-round in Singapore, which underscores the commitment of one of the world’s largest global cruise brands in growing with the region’s cruise ports here for the long term. Coupled with the rising popularity of Southeast Asia as a destination for worldwide travellers, we see strong prospects in this region.”
The Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, sees the increasing numbers of cruise ships as a unique opportunity to re-invent the region to attract tourism.
“Malaysia is developing a Straits Riviera – modelled after the French Riviera cruise experience – which will see improved infrastructure and facilities at six primary ports, i.e. Penang, Port Klang, Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi, Melaka and Kuching, and other secondary ports.
“Efforts to grow this segment also resulted in the establishment of the Malaysia Cruise Council (MCC), a policy-making advisory committee comprising representatives from both public and private sectors. The main task of the council is to chart the direction of the country’s cruise industry and coordinate marketing efforts to attract world cruise liners to call at Malaysian ports.”
Christina Siaw, CEO of Singapore Cruise Centre admits Southeast Asia will be a strong source market for cruise tourism in 2015 with the best still to come.
“Asia as a whole and Southeast Asia in particular, have yet to fully tap their potential as a cruise destination and source market,” she said.
“The current cruise penetration rate in Asia is 0.1 per cent compared to more than 3 per cent in North America’ and 1-2 per cent in Europe. One can reasonably assume that as Asia grows in affluence, its burgeoning middle class will spend more on travel and cruise tourism’s share of the pie will grow.”
Mr Leong Yue Kheong, Assistant Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board and Lead Coordinator of Cruise Development in ASEAN Tourism agrees 2015 will be positive, with a number of new ships set to dazzle the cruise-loving consumer.
“We will welcome a bumper crop of new ships: Royal Caribbean’s newest ship Quantum of the Seas sails to ports in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, while TUI Cruises launches its first season here,” he explains.
Quantum of the Seas embodies the future of cruising with robot bartenders, restaurants rather than buffets, skydiving and ‘virtual’ views.
Mr Leong also recognises the potential of river cruising and admits the industry is taking note.
“We foresee continued growth in river cruise as more ships are deployed to meet consumer demand,” he predicts.
“ASEAN has allocated more resources into developing river cruise, led by Vietnam. ASEAN will be launching a common branding umbrella for exhibitions, which will debut at Cruise Shipping Miami 2015.”
According to Travel Agent Central, exotic new river itineraries are set to boost cruising in destinations such as Myanmar – a new route for Scenic Cruises and Avalon Waterways. You’ll also see the launch of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection in India and Pandaw Cruises will head to remote regions with Laos.
Marni Becker, director of cruise sales, Protravel International, concurs. “Expansion in Asia is huge and not just for the Asian market,” she said.
“As more ships are based there year-round, the possibility of exploring Asia via cruise ship for summertime travel with children is becoming a reality.”