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China's corporate cruise market expands


By Duncan Forgan
07 Aug 2017

Blessed with a coastline that extends approximately 14,500 kilometres from the Gulf of Tonkin in the south to the Bohai Sea in the north and a network of rivers that pierce deep into its interior, China has huge potential for water-bound adventure.

It is no surprise, therefore, that some of the world’s biggest cruise names have expanded their China operations. The market has experienced double-digit growth and Zheng Weihang, executive vice-president of the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association, expects the number of annual Chinese cruise tourists to reach seven million by 2030. It’s not just leisure passengers who are hopping aboard, however.

The MICE market is also seen as a major growth sector, with several of the big players looking to expand meeting facilities and incentive activities 
on their vessels.

Royal Caribbean

The American cruise company has not been slow in capitalising on China’s potential for cruising. Indeed, it has deployed one new ship in the market each year since 2012 and its Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas are among the biggest and newest plotting a course around the seas and waterways in China. The company has always has a strong MICE offering and its China operation maintains this focus.

“China is popular not just with Asian groups, but with corporates from all over the world,” says Janet Nie, director of sales for Royal Caribbean China. “For example, of the huge number of clients to have booked charters with RCL China in the past five years, 40 per cent have been headquartered in the United States.”

Nie reports that many groups opt for a full ship charter, allowing more privacy and a range of perks such as all-inclusive beverage packages, dinner with the captain and custom company logo ice carvings.

Most corporate bookings are for four- or five-night itineraries, with RCL China homeporting in Tianjin, Shanghai, Xiamen and Hong Kong. Popular destinations include Japan and South Korea.

MICE facilities on-board include a theatre capacity of around 1,300 on each ship, while a dedicated MICE service team is on-hand to ensure things run smoothly.

Other advantages include SeaPlex indoor sports centres and a Flowrider surfing simulator, both of which are hugely popular. Quantum of the Seas also offers “sea skydiving experiences” and an observation capsule suspended almost 100 metres above sea level.

Genting Cruise Lines

Long established as a strong favourite with customers in Asia-Pacific, Genting Cruise Lines—comprising three distinct cruise brands: Star Cruises, Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises— has a sophisticated approach to MICE.

Catering to the contemporary market segment
in Asia and China, Star Cruises has a fleet of six vessels in Asia, including SuperStar Virgo, SuperStar Libra, SuperStar Gemini, SuperStar Aquarius, Star Pisces and The Taipan. By 2020 Genting will add two “Global Class” megaships to the fleet.

Each of its existing ships is well kitted-out for MICE. SuperStar Virgo, for instance, can seat
788 people in its theatre space, while its helipad makes a unique spot for cocktail parties and similar events (capacity 288). Top-notch facilities on all its ships, meanwhile, range from super-sized karaoke lounges to dining facilities catering to an array of culinary fancies.

Last year Genting expanded into the luxury market with the launch of Dream Cruises and Genting Dream, the first of its fleet of brand new luxury megaships purposely built for the Asia and China markets. The brand plans to launch its latest luxury ship, World Dream, in late 2017. Among its MICE-friendly features will be a grand ballroom and multilingual interpretation facilities.

Genting Dream can accommodate more than 3,400 guests, and has a variety of indoor and outdoor facilities for MICE, including Zodiac Theatre, which has a capacity of 1,000. There’s also a branch of Zouk, the famous Singaporean nightclub brand, while team-building activities range from zip-lining and climbing to a waterpark.

Costa Cruises

Acclaimed for its creative approach to cruising, Costa China promises to offer MICE groups a little bit of “Italy at sea”. Says Mario Zanetti, president of parent company Carnival China: “With our distinctive positioning and well-established fleet in China, the products and offerings on our cruises can fully satisfy the demand of MICE activities.”

The operator entered the China market in 2006 and now has four ships in the region—Costa Fortuna, inspired by Italy’s great history of cruise and navigation; the Roman-themed Costa Serena; Costa Atlantica, which showcases Italian design and art; and Costa Victoria, which aims for a chic feel. “Every ship, with its individual characteristics, is a perfect one-stop destination,” Zanetti adds.

On-board facilities include spacious theatres, restaurants serving both Western and Chinese cuisines, open decks with perfect sea views, and a variety of lounges and bars perfect for catering to MICE groups. Costa Serena has made a strong showing with MICE clients, thanks to alluring extras such as a 1,000-sqm spa, outdoor deck for sporting activities, state-of-the-art 4D cinemas, an F1 simulator and a water slide.

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