China’s cruise industry booming under Belt and Road Initiative

China’s cruise industry was kick started in July 2006 when Costa Allegra became the first holiday cruise to dock at Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal. After 10 years, the number of outbound cruise passengers in the country topped 2 million for the first time in 2016, and is expected to reach 4.5 million by 2020, according to the annual report by China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association (CCYIA).

A few cruise ships dock at Shanghai Bund Terminal. [Image Credit: Zhao]

China’s cruise industry can look forward to the Belt and Road Initiative as a long term catalyst for growth. With remarkable potential, it’s no surprise that a vast number of foreign cruise companies are making moves into the Chinese market. Global market leaders Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises stepped in during 2015. So  did Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC, which recently added another cruise ship to its China operation.

Chinese companies have also entered the game—HNA Group launched its first luxury cruise ship back in 2013. State-controlled operator Bohai Ferry entered the market in 2014. Ctrip and Royal Caribbean in turn set up a joint venture to launch the China-focused SkySea Cruise Line to court local tourists. The Chinese government emphasized it welcomes foreign shipyards, designers and suppliers to cooperate and form joint ventures with domestic companies.

The main pool on Royal Caribbean. [Image Credit: VCG]

The Chinese government also intensified policy support in developing coastal cities into home ports and international tourism distribution centers.

According to the report, a total of 2.12 million Chinese citizens departed from China’s 10 major port cities, including Tianjin, Dalian, Yantai, Shanghai, Guanghzou and Haikou, to travel overseas last year, up 91 percent year-on-year.

With government help, ports are working hard to upgrade infrastructure for new tonnage and more ships. Wusongkou International Terminal in Shanghai now claims to be the biggest homeport for cruise liners in Asia and is among the top five globally.

Wusongkou International Terminal in Shanghai. [Image Credit:]

Wusongkou Port will add two wharfs, 380 meters and 446 meters long, along the Yangtze River next year, making it possible for two 150,000-ton liners and two 230,000-ton liners to berth at the same time.

Apart from these, the Shanghai government is dedicated to building Shanghai CSSC International Cruise Industrial Park, the first such park in China approved by the National Tourism Administration. The park will be both a cruise manufacturing base and cruise-themed amusement park.

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