The curtains closed on Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacificrecently (3rd November 2017), which saw a full three day programme attended by over 1000 attendees – making this the most successful edition in China to date.
Delegates heard from Dr Zinan Liu, chairman, CLIA North Asia during the opening of Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific, who focussed his comments on how critical government support is to the industry:
"Without government support the cruise industry would not be able to progress to the point it is now". He hopes the government will help iron out some of the difficulties the decade-old China cruise industry is encountering and is confident the government will deal with the issues such as delayed departures and port access channel bottlenecks, which he said he was sure were, temporary problems. With Shanghai Baoshan, now being the largest cruise port in Asia, Liu also said the industry needs better service levels. His rally call was: "Let's work together for the betterment of the cruise industry."
Madam Wang Hong, party secretary general of Shanghai Baoshan People's Government and director of Shanghai International Cruise Business Institute professor, urged stakeholders to pursue the dream of creating a new era of a thriving China cruise economy. Winner of the Rama Rebbapragada Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Cruise Industry in Asia, she commented: "There already have been great accomplishments, in full view of the world stage, including becoming the second largest cruising nation in the world. The world is watching China's cruise development."
Madam Wang Hong added the country had gone from having no cruise terminals and facilities for cruise, to now having established infrastructure and a stable phase of 20% qualitative growth. Previously growth was at a rapid 70% and was more quantitative. "Now we talking more about standardization and localization."
Wang gave a comprehensive picture of the state of the China cruise industry and talked about stimulating the energy of the cruise industry process and creating a value chain of services with simplified documentation processes.
The opening ceremony was followed by Keynote Addresses from Leading Industry CEOs, in which Michael Thamm, CEO, Costa Group & Carnival Asia said he believes in the holistic development of cruise in APAC, which he wants to be a year-round market.
He added: "A year round presence in China, is a force in developing the market. We have a very strategic approach here in China" Princess Cruises' Majestic Princess was the group's first purpose-built ship for China, with two more Costa ships tailor-made for China expected in 2019 and 2020.
Thamm described the cruise industry in China 'to be at an early stage'. He said it was important to focus on the long term, and build a high-quality eco system. "Customer demand, product, distribution, ship management, and newbuilds are all part of this ecosystem. Everything starts with the consumer: We need to transform the value proposition and communicate it. Creating future demand is the key to future success".
Following the welcome and keynote addresses was the opening conference session, covering 'Market Overview – China" – one of the key conference session at the three day event.
From this session 'China's Belt and Road Policy' was one of the key talking points, assessing its benefits and the influence it could bring to Asia and overall global cruise travel market dynamics.
Dr Zinan Liu, president of China and North Asia Pacific Region, Royal Caribbean International explained how the Belt and Road strategy stems from China's historical silk road: "The initiative extends to the ocean-based 'silk road' which will help develop a more extended and diversified economy. For better take up in the cruise industry, there is a need to develop more appealing itineraries and infrastructure to accommodate cruise ships. On the face of it there are already several large terminals, but the issue is functionality." He gave examples of impediments such as limited access channels in and out of Shenzen and Baoshan, which cause delays and negatively impact passenger experience.
Helen Huang, president Greater China, MSC Cruises said MSC Lirica will use nine homeports in China within a year. The vessel is currently in Shanghai and will travel from Shanghai to south China. She said: "The ship had been popular in the Mediterranean with Asians and now they can experience the vessel here. Belt and Road allows neighbouring countries to benefit. Improved cruise infrastructure which would be beneficial and allow for better itineraries. Apart from building hardware such as berths and terminals, consideration should be given to immigration procedures".
She expects the initiative could also lead to the further easing of visa restrictions so that cruising the maritime silk road will become easier. She added: "Currently some destinations may be interesting to Chinese consumers but CIQ procedures are off-putting. We can only choose a limited number of ports."
The action-packed three days saw two familiarization trips - one to the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Shipyard and Haurun Dadong Shiprepair Yard and another to Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, both of which were fully subscribed - followed by a coin ceremony, hosted a Costa Venezia at Fincantieri's Monfalcone yard. This is the first Costa Cruises newbuild for the China market and is scheduled to enter service in 2019. Day one ended with a Welcome Reception and Dinner at The Delta Hotel by Marriott.
Day two saw the start of the busy conference programme, which was opened by Madam WANG Hong (Party Secretary General, Shanghai Baoshan People's Government), Dr Zinan LIU (Chairman of CLIA North Asia President of Royal Caribbean International, North APAC & China) and Andrew WILLIAMS (Group Director, Aviation and Maritime Brands at UBM, Seatrade UBM EMEA).
Andrew Williams, general manager Seatrade, thanked the event hosts and co-organisers Shanghai Baoshan District People's Government, Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal and Shanghai International Cruise Business Institute for their 'support, professionalism, passion and drive in not only making the event possible, but in driving the cruise industry development in China, as all of our sponsors and supporters of this event.'
The final day of the conference programme consists of a busy schedule including sessions covering: Smart Itinerary Planning including Shorex as Part of the Equation, Environmental Sustainability in Cruise Travel and Safety and Security in Cruise. In addition Peter Kollar, Head of International Training & Development, CLIA Australasia is providing a full day on Travel Agent Training, giving attendees a significant advantage over their competitors in the cruise retail market by having an exclusive opportunity to receive insight to the most critical skills needed in Cruise Retail Success.