An unprecedented spike in cruise ship arrivals this year is showing that the tourism business in Penang is changing, especially for retail players, says Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng.
The growth has prompted PPC to study methods for sharing marketing knowledge with Penang tourism entrepreneurs to prepare enriching experiences tailor-made for cruise ship travellers.
Between January and June, cruise ships made 125 calls at the Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal, carrying 264,000 tourists.
In the whole of last year, 230,000 passengers came through 150 cruise ship calls.
Expecting the number of calls to swell to 200 by the year-end, Teik Cheng said PPC was taking heed of the growth and contemplating organising forums or discussion groups with retailers in the local tourism sector to help them understand the micro marketing dynamics of cruise ship travellers.
The pier's success as a cruise ship magnet, he added, had redefined tourism in Penang.
Stressing that all cruise ship passengers only made day-calls for eight to nine hours at the most, he said the tourism sector needed to understand these visitors' needs and package 'Penang in a nutshell' experience for them.
"We are exploring how to hold discussion groups or dynamic sharing sessions to give Penang tourism entrepreneurs and attractions operators the chance to get a deep understanding of this market. This may include presentations by the cruise lines and experienced tour operators."
Teik Cheng added that Penang's fame as a cruise ship destination needed industry-wide synergy, and PPC was well positioned to spearhead the growth because the government agency had close links with all the cruise lines.
Earlier, in a press conference, he announced that Genting Dream, a gleaming new cruise ship less than a year old will make its maiden call at Penang on Nov 27.
Also present was PPC private secretary to the chairman Tan Yang Pang.
Teik Cheng said that the ship - launched last November - was the second biggest in the world based on passenger capacity, after the Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas.
He added that Genting Dream stretches 335m and with a displacement of 151,000 tonnes, with a capacity to transport 3,400 passengers and 2,000 crew members," he said.