3.8m passengers seen for Asian cruises by 2020

SINGAPORE - The US$2-billion (S$2.5 billion) cruise tourism market in Asia is poised to see an unprecedented 14 per cent growth annually to 3.8 million passengers by 2020, with almost half of that market coming from China.

Projections suggest a potential Asian source market of 3.8 million by 2020, representing a compounded annual growth of 14.3 per cent and a total market penetration of 0.12 per cent, according to an industry report released on Wednesday.

Such a scenario would be propped up by China providing nearly half of this market, at 1.6 million passengers, followed closely by Japan at 766,000, the first-ever cruise sector White Paper, commissioned by the Asia Cruise Association, reported.

To cater to such a vast market though would require at least 15 large ships - Voyager of the Seas sized ships, with 3,200 lower berth capacity.

The report estimated that in 2012 alone, the 12 primary Asian source markets delivered 1.3 million passengers, amounting to 0.4 per cent of their combined populations and 5.4 per cent of their total outbound travel to exotic destinations.

China is estimated to be the largest contributor to this market in 2012, with as many as 471,000 passengers, representing a market penetration rate of 0.035 per cent.

Cruise industry experts, Chart Management Consultants, which also researched, analysed and authored the White Paper, said that there are at present 21 international cruise lines serving Asia in 2013, operating a collective 43 ships, either year-round or seasonally.

Their 762 cruises, totally within Asia, in addition to the 58 voyages, which either start or end outside of Asia, provide the opportunity for 1.47 million passengers to cruise Asia this year, representing passage revenue of about US$2 billion. The economies of host cities will also enjoy the benefits of this vibrant industry.

The 110-page White Paper, which specifically excludes one-night only cruises, also said that in 2013 alone, more than 117 separate destinations in 17 nations will receive or host cruise ships, out of which 19 ports will handle 589 turnarounds, thus enjoying the flow-on benefits of passengers embarking or disembarking in their city.

Six of these ports have more than 20 turnarounds each in 2013. The report showed that Singapore ranked highest in terms of the frequency of cruise ships that called on its port.

The White Paper was released by Dr Zinan Lui, chairman of the Asia Cruise Association and also the Asian regional vice-president of Royal Caribbean Cruises, at the Cruise Shipping Asia Pacific Convention in Singapore.

The paper acknowledged that even though there was vast potential for growth for the Asian cruise market, there were challenges and constraints that could impede on the industry's prospects. At the press conference for the report's launch on Wednesday,

Chart's principal and the lead author of the White Paper, Ted Blamey, said the top three challenges and constraints were the risk of geopolitical conflict breaking out in the Asian region, the availability of adequate infrastructure to support the growth of the industry and cross-border regulatory constraints that governments fix.

The White Paper also recommends a list of ideas for action, including regional cooperation and dialogue between stakeholders to promote and publicise the benefits of the growth of the cruise sector.

Kevin Leong, general manager of the Asia Cruise Association, added that the White Paper was therefore useful in this regard as it could provide contextual support during the dialogue and discussions with governments.

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