Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning 2024

24 Hong Kong’s East-meets-West culture, varied culinary landscape, exciting arts scene and welcoming locals have long drawn tourists to the city, and more than 55 million of them visited in 2019. The city’s ideal position within Asia also made it an attractive hub at the centre of the region’s burgeoning cruising industry, drawing in both regional and international cruise lines. However, as with the rest of the world, the pandemic brought tourism to a standstill in the city. The city’s industry has taken time to regain its previous strength, but tourism surged in 2023. Over four million people visited Hong Kong in August alone, taking the total tourist arrivals in the first eight months of the year to 20 million. The Southeast Asia source market has recovered the fastest, with arrivals from the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam surpassing prepandemic levels. The number of travellers from mainland China has also been strong, recovering to about 90 per cent of the pre-pandemic amount. Hong Kong’s resurgent tourism sector has also buoyed the city’s cruise industry. An increasing number of cruise lines have committed to deploying their ships in the city or including it within their itineraries. Resorts World Cruises’ Resorts World One began a year-round deployment until April 2024, while Royal Caribbean International’s Spectrum of the Seas will spend winter 20242025 sailing from the city. Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice will also make several turnaround calls in Hong Kong in winter 2023-2024 and winter 2024-2025. By the end of 2023, 18 cruise lines will have made more than 160 cruise calls in Hong Kong. “With this encouraging rebound, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has made it a priority to recalibrate its cruise strategy to sustain long-term growth in a bid to reclaim the city’s status as the cruise hub of Asia,” says Kenneth Wong, general manager of MICE and cruise at HKTB. In a testimony to its position as an important cruise centre, the HKTB successfully pitched for the regional industry showcase event, Seatrade Cruise Asia Pacific, to return for the first time in four years. The event took place on Hong Kong has long been one of the most popular tourism destinations in Asia. With the sector now showing strong postpandemic recovery, the city is poised to regain its position as the region’s premier cruise hub too. Alex Smith reports Reclaiming the cruise crown COVER STORY