Asia has long been the biggest growth market for the cruise industry and a new report from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released last week confirmed that it is still a market that is primed for growth.
“Asia once again showed impressive results in 2017, with most Asian source markets registering double-digit, year-on-year growth,” said Joel Katz, managing director for CLIA Australasia & Asia, in a statement announcing the association’s 2018 Asia Cruise Trends report.
By the numbers
Last year was another record for the region, according to the CLIA report, with 4.052 million Asian passengers having taken an ocean cruise — a record high for the industry and up about 20 percent compared to 2016. That number is 15 percent of total global ocean passenger volume in 2017.
According to Katz, there is a good possibility those numbers could increase, as more and more travelers from Asia get introduced to cruising as a vacation.
“While Asian travelers predominantly take their first cruise within the Asia region, as they experience cruise as a holiday choice, they are increasingly coming back to cruise in other regions,” he told Travel Market Report.
A lot of that interest is heading toward sailings that feature Southeast Asia cruise ports including cities in mainland China, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. That region will see more than a 20 percent increase in port calls in 2018, according to the CLIA report.
The growth is partially a result of just how much those cruise ports offer. Hoi An, Vietnam and Chiang Mai, Thailand both appeared in Travel + Leisure’s most recent Best Cities in Asia list — but part of that is due to a rising ship capacity and source market in the area.
“Source market and ship capacity in Southeast Asia has been growing over the years, as interest in cruising amongst Asian travelers has been rising. Asian travelers increasingly recognize cruising as an easy, relaxing, and great value-for-the-money way to travel,” Katz told Travel Market Report.
For this year, CLIA expects 38 different cruise brands to sail ships on Asian waterways.
Falloff or growth
With the news that Norwegian Cruise Line was pulling Norwegian Joy from China, a ship that was built specifically to sail the region, some have wondered whether the significant growth that the region has seen — total passenger numbers have increased from 775,000 to nearly 4.052 million since 2012 — has begun to slow.
According to the report, even though those passenger numbers have been rising, this year’s scheduled cruise calls are slightly down when compared with the planned calls in 2017.
But CLIA’s Katz believes the region is still primed for growth. “As local demand for cruise holidays continues to rise, we would expect to increasingly see Asian shipyards move into the cruise ship sector to benefit from this growth,” he said.
“The Chinese government has already highlighted cruise ship new builds as a strategic objective, but key to being able to compete with the more established and highly successful European shipbuilders will be the ability for local builders to be able establish the complex supply chains that are required to deliver cruise ships to the required standard.”