The 3rd Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention came to a close last week, following a three day conference, two day showcase exhibition and travel agent training programme, each focussing on Asia’s on-going development within the cruise industry.
Throughout the three days, 26-28 September, delegates and exhibitors from 30 countries gathered at the iconic Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal to hear 50 industry experts discuss the way forward for Asia’s cruise market in the conference sessions.
Asia’s progress, prospects and potential
Last year more than 20m people cruised worldwide, a figure projected to grow to 23m in 2015. At the moment, Asia Pacific accounts for around 8.5% of that total, showing there is great potential here.
Whilst the cruise lines complimented Asia on their homeport facilities, it was widely thought that many destinations are underdeveloped and there is a pressing need for long term planning with a global view. Other operational challenges facing the cruise industry within Asia range from immigration procedures to shore excursions and port costs. Cruise line speakers suggested that Asian ports need to develop one association with one voice to address opportunities and challenges for the future.
A session on new itineraries and destinations delved into the visitor experience, how investments and regulatory changes are opening new opportunities, port developments and the differing preferences of Western and Asian cruisers. While Western cruisers prefer longer itineraries, Asians prefer shorter, port-intensive cruises, in keeping with their limited vacation time. Asians also favour iconic attractions and shopping.
With European shipyards and suppliers currently dominating the market, speakers discussed Asia’s role within these sectors and highlighted how cruise lines need suppliers from countries that have easy immigration processes and minimal regulatory or import restrictions. They urged Chinese authorities to reconsider the blanket 17% VAT and reduce it at least in certain categories of goods, such as groceries and whatever is consumed in port. Cruise lines spoke of the need to introduce Asian competition to get the attention of the European suppliers who are quality wise, on top of their game, but need a wake up call.
Speakers during the shipbuilding session spoke of how China is close to entering the cruise ship new build market. Asian shipyards are keen to learn and will catch up very quickly and whilst cruise ship design may well stay in Europe for the next 10 years, it’s likely construction will shift to Asia in the near future.
Seatrade Chairman Chris Hayman ended the conference stating “Asia offers great opportunities for the entire cruise industry and it is evident based on discussions at this event we are on the threshold of exciting times”.
Travel Agent Training and Showcase Exhibition
Running alongside the conference was a two-day complimentary travel agent training programme which saw a record breaking 350 local travel agents attend. The training conducted in Chinese was presented by a team of industry experts from Costa, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Star Cruises and MSC Cruises. The sessions were split into two, entry level and mid-advance level to ensure each travel agent gained valuable information on promoting and selling the lucrative range of cruise products. The training session was organised by the Shanghai International Cruise Training Centre - the tri-party collaboration between Seatrade Cruise Academy, the Shanghai Tourism Board and Asia Cruise Association.
In the showcase exhibition, both international and Asian brands from all sectors were represented from cruise lines including Costa Crociere SpA, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Star Cruises, to cruise ports and destinations, shipbuilders and many more. In total 49 companies exhibited at the event, showing how important the Asian cruise market is worldwide.
Cruise lines, delegates and exhibitors were treated to a warm Shanghai welcome reception at the Hyatt on the Bund and a spectacular farewell dinner at Club Panorma, which overlooked the Huangpu River, providing exceptional viewing of the Huangpu River Cruise Parade and Fireworks Display.
The Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention will return in 2013, look out for dates to be announced soon.
The 3rd Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention has been organised by Seatrade in association with Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration, Shanghai Municipal Hongkou District People’s Government and Shanghai International Port Group Ltd, and was sponsored by Costa Crociere, Germanishcher Lloyd SE and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. The Asia Cruise Association, Asia Cruise Terminal Association, Passenger Shipping Association, Shanghai International Conference Management Organisation, Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority and Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal supported the event.