By John Roberts
Hong Kong is Asia's world city. It's also on pace to become the city that serves as the most important cruise hub in growing the industry. That's what a report from the Hong Kong Tourism Board anticipates.
Results from two studies on the Asian cruise market were revealed at a luncheon event March 16 at Cruise Shipping Miami. Anthony Lau, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, summarized the findings from the "Asia Cruise Potential and Passenger Behaviour Study" and the "Asia Cruise Port Development Study."
The passenger behavior study looks at the potential market for cruisers in Greater China, which is the largest source of cruisers in Asia and eight-largest in the world. Greater China is home to a potential 83 million cruise passengers throughout seven source markets (large regions of China) that the study covered.
This means that the total of those people who fit the demographic of likely cruisers in the Greater China market is already nearly four times the number of cruise passengers worldwide (22 million in 2014). The study also shows that the makeup of the typical cruiser from China is likely to be younger and more family oriented than those from traditional source markets like Europe and the United States. About 69 percent of respondents who were members of families with children younger than 16 said they planned to cruise. Also, about 51 percent of respondents between 20 and 29 said they want to cruise.
"Chinese see a cruise trip as a high-quality, hassle-free way to enjoy time with family," Lau said.
He also pointed out that that the average Chinese cruiser considers Wi-Fi connectivity important, strives to try new foods and finds a six- or seven-day sailing the ideal length.
Over the next 10-plus years, "Asia is expected to be a key growth driver in cruising," Lau said.
A Cruise Line International Association study released March 17 on Asia cruise trends backs this up. Cruise lines had nearly 1.4 million Asian passengers onboard in 2014, representing a 34 percent jump since 2012, the CLIA report shows.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board's port development study focuses on the work being done on ports in Hong Kong and neighboring areas. With Hong Kong as the home-port destination, the study outlines 21 ports within six to seven cruise days that have in place plans to upgrade existing cruise infrastructure – like berths and port facilities – as and expand tourism offerings for visitors once they come ashore. The study identifies Sanya, Xiamen, Zhoushan, Qingdao and Yantai in China and Keelung, Hualien, Kaohsiung, Anping, Taiching, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu in Taiwan. It also includes Miyakojima and Takamatsu in Japan; Mokpo and Yeosu in South Korea; Hon La, Vietnam; and Manila, Boracay and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines.
Half of these ports will be able to serve ships of at least 100,000 gross tons within five years, the study says.
"Hong Kong, being Asia's cruise hub at the heart of Asia, is the perfect location to tap into the growing cruise potential in the region," Lau said. The first-of-their kind studies were conducted by the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.