Stronger Asia cruising stokes MICE hopes: cruise leaders

Princess Cruises/Cunard Line's Farriek Tawfik has a positive outlook for the next five years

Asia is now the fastest growing region for some international cruise lines and with the deployment of more new state-of-the-art ships – some of which are the largest in this region, cruise industry leaders are eyeing the huge potential for corporate take-ups.

They estimate the segment can be 10 times bigger, that it is growing at double-digit speed and at rates of between 15 and more than 30 per cent.

The optimism, these cruise industry leaders noted, stems from the better understanding of and familiarity with cruising among value-driven Asians seeking sophisticated products and new quality experiences.

Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia), which has increased its sailings by 20 times in the region, is taking a “channel-neutral” approach to grow corporate bookings.

Sean Treacy, managing director, Asia-Pacific, said the company has hired a new sales person to educate trade partners who handle business events but have not considered the cruise option.

For popular destinations where hotel rates keep rising, Felix Chan, vice president of sales Asia, Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings, opined that cruise ships offer a good accommodation alternative for large event groups and when major events close out a city.

Princess Cruises/Cunard Line’s Farriek Tawfik has a positive outlook for the next five years

Farriek Tawfik, director of South-east Asia, Princess Cruises/Cunard Line, commented: “MICE has always been a core business for our three- to four-night cruises, which is a good introduction for a captive audience. It is still very new in South-east Asia,” and added that the outlook for the next five years is good.

Frank Yan, vice president of sales, Shanghai SkySea Cruise Travel said the focus of SkySea, a joint venture between Ctrip group and Royal Caribbean catering to Chinese travellers, has been business events, with “flexibility” and “customisation” being key.

About 20 per cent of SkySea’s business is events-related and it is enjoying between 15 and 20 per cent growth.

“We offer a lot of fly-cruises, especially to Singapore, and we would like to expand the itineraries to more ports and countries. But visas are an issue where multi-destination programmes are concerned,” Yan pointed out.

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