Will cruises come of age in Asia?
Incoming cruise travellers from four major international cruise liners will generates just over 90,000 visits to Thailand in 2010.
Association of Thai Travel Agents honorary secretary general and Regale International Travel managing director, Jumpol Chadavadh, who specialises in cruise ground handling services, presented the case for attracting more international cruise operators, at last week’s Asean Hotel & Restaurant Association Seminar held in Bangkok.
According to Mr Jumpol, Cunard; P&O Cruise and Costa generate 90,296 passengers. Of this, 30,248 passengers disembark in Phuket, 6,628 in Samui and 53,416 in Laem Chabang, 20 km from Pattaya and 100 km from Bangkok.
CruiseMr Jumpol, said the cruise industry is the fastest-growing category in the leisure travel market. Since 1980, the industry has experienced an average annual passenger growth of approximately 7.5% a year.
Globally, cruise passengers represent 13.2 million visits. The industry forecasts 13.5 million passengers in 2009, a 2.3% increase over 2008.
"From the demand side, Asia has a chance to become a new cruise hub and we should be looking at how to develop facilities to attract this market."
"China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam have seaports, or are currently building them. It is a very serious challenge for us all."
According to Mr Jumpol, a typical cruise ship carries up to 2,000 passengers and 800 crew members and generates an estimated US$190,476 in passenger and crew expenditures during a single port-of-call.
"As a result we should focus on offering turnaround ports for cruise companies. If we just welcome cruise passengers for port of calls then we are missing the real challenge," Mr Jumpol said.
However, the body of industry opinion suggests that cruises are not as profitable for developing economies, when compared with other forms of tourism. Cruise passengers sleep on board with only a small percentage using hotel services.
Ground handling, tours, and even shopping are tightly controlled with shore-leave in a country limited to a day outing to the nearest tourist destination. Overnight options are more likely at popular destinations such as Singapore and Hong Kong where cruises start or end. However, Phuket is attracting cruise ships that stay one to two nights giving passengers an option to go onshore and stay in partner hotels.