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China’s cruise tourism soars: Spring festival marks vibrant season

China’s international cruise sector sees a surge, with bookings up by 445% during the Spring Festival, signaling a robust start to the Year of the Dragon.

Since September 2023, China has revitalized its international cruise tourism sector, witnessing a remarkable surge in both supply and demand, especially during the recent Spring Festival, marking the beginning of a vibrant “cruise season.” According to Fliggy, a cruise booking platform, bookings, encompassing both domestic and international cruises, soared by 445% year-on-year during the Spring Festival period, demonstrating a robust start for the Year of the Dragon in China’s cruise tourism industry.

Shanghai, a pivotal hub for cruise tourism, inspected four inbound and outbound cruise ships during the 8-day Spring Festival holiday, facilitating the movement of over 21,200 passengers, a nearly 22% increase from the previous month. The city’s cruise port, on February 22nd alone, welcomed four international cruise ships, including the “Aida Modu,” “Gulangyu,” “Blue Dream Star,” and the luxurious “Europa” from Malta, marking a significant uptick in activity and interest in cruise travel.

To enhance the tourist experience, cities like Tianjin have implemented measures such as streamlined customs clearance and responsive support for passengers who misplace boarding documents, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable travel experience for the predominantly middle-aged and elderly demographic of cruise passengers.

Experts predict a bright future for China’s cruise economy. Professor Ye Xinliang of the Shanghai University of Engineering Science anticipates a significant increase in the economic prosperity index of China’s cruise industry in 2023, with 2024 poised to be a turning point for the full-scale development of the sector. He forecasts that the growth rate of China’s cruise ships will exceed the global average this year.

Echoing Professor Ye’s sentiment, Zheng Weihang, executive vice president of the Cruise Yacht Branch of the China Communications and Transportation Association, envisions the dawn of the second “golden decade” for China’s cruise industry, marked by rapid development and innovation.

This resurgence in cruise tourism is part of China’s broader recovery in inbound and outbound tourism. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reported approximately 6.83 million inbound and outbound tourists during this year’s Spring Festival, mirroring 2019 levels. The China Tourism Academy projects that the number of Chinese outbound tourists could reach 130 million by 2024, highlighting the country’s growing appetite for travel and exploration.

Amid this optimistic backdrop, international cruise companies are vying for a slice of China’s burgeoning market. Royal Caribbean, for instance, plans to offer over 130 international cruise itineraries to Chinese consumers from 2025 to 2026, underscoring the industry’s confidence in China as a thriving cruise destination.

As China’s cruise tourism sails towards a brighter horizon, it not only signifies the sector’s recovery post-pandemic but also underscores the nation’s pivotal role in shaping the future of global cruise tourism.

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Articles

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.