Cruising to new heights
The new world-class Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is set to be a major boost for growth of the cruise tourism industry, which will attract major firms to dedicate more cruises to the Asian region. It is estimated that 3.7 million cruise guests will be sourced in Asia by 2017.
Located at the centre of the picturesque Victoria Harbour on what was once the southern tip of the Kai Tak runway, the first berth of Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will open for berth bookings by cruise lines from mid-2013, and the second berth will be ready in mid-2014.
Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) executive director Anthony Lau said that major players in the cruise industry were eyeing Asia as an opportunity, thanks to a relatively untapped source market and a blossoming middle-class population with a growing appetite and opportunity for travel. Hong Kong was well placed to tap into the potential of the Asian cruise market and, in particular, mainland China, and the Greater Pearl River Delta region.
Last year, about one in 10 of the 20 million passengers who embarked on a cruise came from Asia, with experts predicting this number to rise steadily, reaching 7 million by 2020 as more people in the region acquire a taste for travel on the seas. Of these, up to 2 million cruise passengers are expected to come from mainland China, already the world's fastest-growing outbound tourism market, accounting for 80 million of the world's 1 billion international tourists last year (2012).
Jeff Bent, general manager of passenger services and director of cruise projects for Worldwide Flight Services, a shareholder of Worldwide Cruise Terminals - the cruise terminal operator- said the terminal would supplement facilities at Ocean Terminal and make it possible for Hong Kong to host the newest and the best cruise ships. "For the cruise lines it represents one piece in the regional cooperation that needs to come together to encourage the whole industry to grow in Asia," he said.
The new facility, combined with the city's airport and its unrivalled connectivity to Asia, will also enable cruise companies to develop new itineraries using Hong Kong as a launching point for fly-cruise itineraries, as well as a possible home port and port-of-call.
One of the key elements to emerge was the importance of regional cooperation in creating port facilities for the cruise ships and in developing new itineraries, Bent said.
Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and CEO of Carnival Asia, part of Carnival Corp said the potential was too big to ignore. The presence of the group's Princess Cruises and Costa Cruises in Asia and their recent opening of a second office for Princess Cruises in Hong Kong were evidence of their commitment to the Asian market. "The key here is not so much to bring ships with international customers, but to bring ships and add ships residing in Asia full of Asian consumers. We believe 3.7 million cruise guests will be sourced in Asia by year 2017 and if we move forward to 2020, we guess 7 million will be sourced in Asia," said Foschi.
Hong Kong's Tourism Commissioner Philip Yung said the consensus among analysts was there were tremendous opportunities for the cruise industry in Asia and that its development created a win-win situation for the all destinations in the region.
"There is no better means than cruising for travellers to visit a few countries in the same journey,'" said Yung. "It is important for neighbouring ports to work together to up the overall appeal of the region and spark the demand for cruise tourism for our part of the world."
Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will greatly enhance the cruise-handling capacity of Hong Kong, accommodating the biggest cruise vessels in the world. The iconic three-storeyed building features light-filled passenger and service areas with various levels fusing into the surrounding pedestrian walkways and vertical transportation systems for efficient passenger circulation between drop-offs, waiting halls, concourse, roof garden, terraces and various amenities. A unique multi-functional venue, the new cruise terminal will be a centre not only for the cruise industry but will be an ideal venue for events during the non-peak cruise season.