For the second year in a row, a French delegation composed of cruise-club executives from three main French Atlantic ports (Valérie Conan/Le Havre Cruise Club, Laurence Bouchardie/Bordeaux Cruise Club and Guillaume Henry/Cherbourg Cruise Club) including one representative of the Mediterranean region promoting 12 ports (Anne-Marie Blum/Var Provence Cruise Club) have attended the Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific held in Baoshan, Shanghai from 23-24 October.
This business trip, organised over a week period by Atout France, the French government Tourism agency, has enabled the French cruise club representatives to schedule meetings with major travel agencies of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, alongside their participating at Seatrade Asia. The objectives of this trip were to get insight about the evolution of the Chinese market, to identify the key contacts, to highlight France’s great offer in terms of maritime and river cruise ports, both for transit, turnaround and varied excursion experiences, as well as the immense potential of pre- and post-cruise stays available for the Chinese cruise guests.
An opportunity to network with cruise industry professionals and weave close relationships with all the travel agencies professionals encountered in order to deliver the best offers and services for their customers.
Likewise, compared to the previous visit of the delegation last year, Chinese professionals have highlighted the intense growth of the cruise market over the last 10 years, and especially to the Mediterranean being the first destination to be quoted. Northern Europe, however, is already well identified and attracts an increasing number of visitors.
From the meetings and exchanges the French cruise clubs’ delegation had with the professionals of the travel industry, hereunder are some of the first lessons learned:
– All brands represented by travel agents are present on the French territory, either in transit or on turnaround.
– There are still difficulties to obtain visas for Chinese citizens to visit some countries that need to be solved.
– Following the 10-year growth of the Asian market, not only in volume of departures from China to Asia, but also for fly-cruises packages, according to a majority of travel agencies who are very optimistic about the future, they confirm that Europe is definitely a major destination (2nd most popular after Asia), that offers the greatest potential and attracts repeaters, already familiar with cruise holidays in Asia.
– Ports and destinations must get ready to welcome this market and deliver quality services up to the expectations of their guests.
– Tailor-made excursions with Chinese speaking cruise guides.
– More middleclass Chinese passengers want to experience with the locals.
Shopping is still trendy:
– new services should be implemented locally for the Chinese market with the possibility of payment by WeChat.
– Cruise lines should develop new homeports to widen the variety of destinations.
– Cruise lines must deliver services dedicated to this market.
– Chinese speaking guides and crew to solve the language barrier (reception, services, catering…)
– High quality Chinese cuisine and food is key.
Interest in the French destinations goes far beyond the Cruise product only, as many Chinese visitors combine their cruise experience with a pre- or post-stay, offering great prospects for territorial spin-offs. To achieve this, however, the specific needs of Chinese customers will have to be considered.
And their expectations are more precise than one would think. Hence, the approach of the French delegation was warmly welcomed by all interlocutors, who are already familiar with the French tourist assets such as the many UNESCO sites for instance, and they rely on their support to identify new products, in order to satisfy their customers in search of immersive and authentic experiences, off the beaten tracks.
Thus, each destination has been able to assert its own attractions, but more importantly, the relationship is being forged for a longer-term collaboration.