Cruise Shipping Asia opened today at the Sands Resort in Singapore with a panel of top cruise line executives discussing the current state and potential for the pan-Asia region as the next great cruising market.
In his opening remarks, Michael Kazakoff, vice president of UBM Live, organizers of the Cruise Shipping Asia and Cruise Shipping Miami event and panel moderator, said the conference plans to examine many aspects of the development of the Asia cruise industry and offer an outlook for the future.
"Our tagline, 'Gateway to Tomorrow's Marketplace,' illustrates the Asia Pacific's tremendous opportunity for the cruise industry through ship visits and as a source market," he said.
Topics addressed by the panel included the current size and scope of the Asia-Pacific market, the importance of product differentiation, distribution and the future outlook for the market.
Sarina Bratton of Orion Expeditions said, "Product differentiation in Asia is key to success! The product should not be cookie-cutter, but should instead be tailor-made for the Asian cruise market."
Educating travel agents through branded programs has been most successful in selling cruise programs to the Asian market, noted Rick Meadows of Holland America Line and Seabourn. "Also," he said, "attracting first-time cruisers in the region is key to success."
Michael Bayley of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. noted that the cruise industry in Asia has doubled since 2005, the current Asia Pacific market is comparable to the European Union market in 1991, and that the Asia-Pacific market is "unbelievably underpenetrated and has a phenomenal opportunity for brand segmentation in the region."
Roberto Giorgi of V. Ships pointed out that the Asia-Pacific market currently has 21 permanent ships and 38 seasonal vessels in the region.
Moderator Kazakoff posed the question to the panel about whether there is a possibility of development of a "China cruise line," to which Giorgi replied, "It certainly is possible in the near future, as well as new shipbuilding to handle the demand of the region." He asserted that the region can no longer "repurpose" older vessels.
Royal Caribbean's Bayley said he was confident that a Chinese cruise line would emerge by the end of the decade.
Costa Cruises' Gianni Onorato closed the session with the thought that "Events like Cruise Shipping Asia give a great opportunity to educate travel agents and the market about the potential of the Asia cruise industry."