Singapore - US-based cruise liner Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCL) is on track to venture into China next year with a ship tailor-made for the Chinese market, a company official said Tuesday.
Demand for cruises is rising in China, driven by the country's growing middle class, said Steve Odell, NCL senior vice president and managing director for the Asia Pacific.
About 2.2 million, or 10 per cent, of the 23 million passengers who made cruise trips worldwide in 2014 came from Asia, with this figure only set to rise, industry data showed.
China accounted for about 50 per cent of the cruise trips within Asia that same year, according to the data from the Cruise Lines International Association.
Odell spoke to AFP Tuesday as the firm opened an office in Singapore for the Southeast Asian market, with an eye also on the bigger Chinese pie.
Cruise operators are eager to grab a slice of the Chinese market, which could grow to nearly $10 billion in cruise package sales by 2018 from around $6.8 billion in 2013, according to data from Euromonitor.
In spite of the economic slowdown, NCL is going ahead with plans to launch the Norwegian Joy, a ship tailor-made for the Chinese market which will come into service in next March.
Based at ports in Shanghai and Tianjin, offers on the ship will be geared to Chinese tastes, including more Chinese food options, casinos, mahjong rooms and duty-free shopping.
The 20-deck liner will have a capacity of 3,900 passengers and joins 12 other liners that have homeports in China, nine of them foreign owned.
"If you think of things on the macro scale, there's a lot of confidence that (ships) going to China (are) going to get filled up. What will happen probably is that there'll be a lot more pressure on price than before, but that is normal supply and demand economics," Odell said.
With only about 1.5 million passengers making cruise trips in China last year, the potential is huge, considering the country's population of 1.3 billion, he said.
"We're still in the... infancy of developing a cruise market in China," Odell added.