Nine trends impacting the cruise industry in Asia

With more cruise ships than ever before and significant investments in ports and destinations, Asia’s cruise industry has truly come of age. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) explains what this means for the region

Nine trends impacting the cruise industry in Asia
Ther are more than 168 destinations to choose from
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2015 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review.

This year, 26 cruise brands are cruising in Asia and 52 ships are scheduled to sail – nine of which are year-round. Overall, in 2015, there are more than 1,000 cruises and voyages scheduled with the capacity to carry more than two million passengers.

To uncover the trends and driving factors impacting the growth of the cruise industry in Asia, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released a comprehensive Asia Cruise Trends study earlier this year.

Capacity boost – The capacity to carry passengers continues to soar with the introduction of new and larger ships in the region. Since 2013, passenger capacity grew at a 20% compound annual growth rate and is expected to reach almost 2.2 million in 2015. The Asia region has quickly progressed to fourth in passenger capacity deployment, tied with Australasia.

Asia passenger growth – With this increased ship capacity, Asians are cruising more than ever before. Cruise lines hosted nearly 1.4 million Asian vacationers in 2014, a 34% compound annual growth rate since 2012.

Increase in Chinese cruisers – From 2012 to 2014, the number of Chinese passengers grew 79% per year. In 2014, 697,000 passengers were from mainland China, which is almost as many passengers as all other Asian markets combined (701,000).

Under-40 cruisers – China’s Generation Y – ages below 35 years old – made up most of the country’s outbound travel, according to statistics from the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF)1. This trend is echoed in the cruise industry. In four of the largest cruise markets – China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines – more than four out of 10 passengers were under 40.

More cruise ships in Asia – This year, 52 cruise ships will operate in Asia, a 10% compound annual growth rate since 2013. The number of cruises and longer voyages in the region has also grown with 1,065 sailings scheduled this year, up 11% per year. There has also been a significant increase in the number of days cruise ships are in operation, from 4,307 operating days in 2013 to 5,824 operating days in 2015.

Asian exploration – While Asian outbound tourism is exploding around the world, the study found that Asian cruisers are primarily exploring Asian destinations. More than nine out of ten Asian passengers (91%) cruised within Asia. The remaining 9% flew to cruise destinations outside the region, primarily in Europe, followed by Alaska and the Caribbean.

Proliferation of ports – Cruising in the region includes more than 168 destinations across 18 countries, making travelling by cruise ship one of the easiest ways to see all that Asia has to offer. While the introduction of new ports throughout Asia is great for travellers, it is also great for local economies. With a 34% absolute increase in port calls since 2013, cruise lines are bringing more visitors to destinations in Asia, having a direct impact on economic growth in the region. Japan ranks top with 646 port calls planned in 2015, followed by Malaysia (580), South Korea (377), Singapore and Thailand (374 each).

Short sailings – Depending on the market, many Asian guests have limited vacation entitlements. Therefore, there are more short-duration cruises preferred by Asian consumers with 48% of Asian passengers choosing four- to six-day cruises in 2014, 38% choosing cruises of two to three nights, and only 12% opting for seven- to thirteen-night cruises.

Attracting the Asian traveller – Cruise lines have recognised the need to bring their best ships and amenities to the region. Among the new onboard offerings tailored to the Asian guests are inclusive onboard activities aimed at multigenerational families, high-end shopping, and adapted menus to include familiar favorites and regional cuisine.

“It is exciting that, for the first time, we know the true size of Asian source markets and have been able to extend our understanding of Asia’s cruise industry growth and potential,” says Adam M. Goldstein, Global CLIA chairman, and president and COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “2015 will be a record-breaking year in Asia with more travellers cruising the region than ever before. The cruise industry is responding by offering more cruises with experiences tailored to Asian travellers as well as enticing international travellers with an easy way to visit Asia’s array of fascinating destinations.”

With demand growing, Asian cruise operators have begun offering short-haul voyages that depart from the ports of Shanghai and Hong Kong, with cruises often going to Japan or South Korea. The reaction of the cruise industry has already been impressive.

CLIA recognises the importance of having a presence in Asia’s rapidly growing cruise tourism market and has established CLIA Southeast Asia and CLIA North Asia as the regional arms in 2014.

About the project
CLIA in Asia commissioned the 2014 Asia Cruise Trends study to understand this quickly evolving marketplace. The research builds upon a 2013 White Paper, Information, Intelligence, Insights, that was commissioned by the (former) Asia Cruise Association. Both projects were undertaken by CHART Management Consultants, global experts in cruise tourism and strategy. Asia Cruise Trends collected three years of trending data from 13 international and regional cruise lines, representing approximately 90% of Asia cruise ship capacity. The analyses exclude one-night cruises.

1The World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) together with Ipsos, a France-based market research company, conducted a survey of Chinese outbound tour customers in July 2014.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016