Royal Caribbean Cruises target Chinese tourists

Royal Caribbean International has entered into a strategic relationship with the Xiamen municipal government and China World Cruises (CWC) in China that involves CWC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Beijing-based property and theme park developer Shan-Hai-Shu, chartering Legend of the Seas for a total of four months in 2012.

During the four months, Royal Caribbean International will operate and market 21, three- to eight-night sailings from Xiamen, as well as Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong, to ports of call in Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and Korea. The inaugural, five-night charter sailing will depart from Hong Kong on March 20, 2012, while the first departure of guests from Xiamen will be on March 26.

The time charter agreement is fully supported by the Xiamen Municipal Government as part of the government’s development of Xiamen as the fourth cruise home port for Royal Caribbean International in China, following Shanghai, Tianjin and Hong Kong.

“This is an incredible opportunity for Royal Caribbean International, the Xiamen municipal government and China World Cruises, and is truly unique to the fast growing cruise industry in Asia,” says Dr. Zinan Liu, group managing director for China and Asia, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “We are the first cruise brand to bring together the support of the government and local private industry.”

Working with the Xiamen municipal government, Xiamen-based CWC aims to invest around $5 billion in the Xiamen waterfront area and harbour district to develop a “Cruise Homeport City”, with a theme park, retail units, luxury hotels, condominiums, as well as a new, four-berth cruise terminal. Xiamen is located between Shanghai and Hong Kong, is less than 200 miles from Taipei, Taiwan, and is one of the most important and fastest growing ports along the Chinese coast.

“China holds amazing opportunities for the cruise industry, including port infrastructure development to attracting vacationers from around the world,” says Michael Bayley, executive vice president of International for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “These are exciting times and we are delighted to be working with the Xiamen Municipal Government and China World Cruises on this strategic arrangement.”

Legend of the Seas is an award-winning, 1,804 double occupancy ship that has been operating in Asia, out of Singapore since 2008 and out of Shanghai since 2010.

“We believe Royal Caribbean International is the right cruise brand to work with in developing the cruise industry in China,” says George Buge Zhang, President of China World Cruises. “In just a few years, they’ve established themselves as the market leader and proven they understand local market conditions and Chinese guests’ needs and preferences.”

The strategic relationship with the Xiamen municipal government and China World Cruises follows the announcement in June that Royal Caribbean International willdeploy the 3,114 double occupancy Voyager of the Seas to China in June 2012.Offering a wide variety of itineraries, ranging from four to eight nights, Voyager of the Seas will double the size of any cruise ship operating in China, and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Spanning 14 passenger decks and with 1,556 staterooms, Voyager of the Seas will start its Asia 2012 season with a sailing from Singapore, followed by itineraries out of Shanghai (Baoshan) and Tianjin, to ports including Fukuoka and Kobe in Japan, and Busan and Jeju in Korea until October. Voyager of the Seas will begin 14-night sailings from Sydney, Australia on November 24, 2012 to ports in Australia and New Zealand, while itineraries in early 2013 will include stops in Tasmania and the South Pacific.

China inbound travel to the U.S. continues to rise

Chinese travelers are visiting the United States in increasingly large numbers -and will continue to do so- according to two recent NTA reports.
The majority of Chinese tour operators confirmed that bookings to the United States increased, by an average of 16 to 20 percent, in the second quarter of 2011, as reported in the China Travel Trade Barometer. None of the surveyed operators reported a decline. The Barometer, produced quarterly by NTA, in partnership with Travel Market Insights and Ivy Alliance, captures input from top Chinese travel firms that promote and sell travel to the United States.

This increase is in line with an NTA report of its China Inbound Program. Based on a survey of U.S. tour operators registered with the program, which serves Chinese leisure group travelers visiting the United States, the number of tourists during the first quarter of 2011 was 99,752. Prior to the 2010 opening of the NTA Visit USA Center in Shanghai, a baseline of 46,709 leisure group travelers visited the United States during the second quarter of 2010. The baseline was established to monitor the progress of the NTA Visit USA Center and inbound travel from China to the United States.

“The increase of travelers served by tour operators in the NTA China Inbound Program essentially doubled,” said Lisa Simon, NTA president. “And those visitors represent nearly $600 million in travel and spending on U.S. lodging, food, entertainment and shopping.”

The Department of Commerce estimates that every Chinese visitor spends an average of more than $6,000, including airfare with U.S. carriers. In 2010, 802,000 Chinese travelers visited the United States, which includes all travelers from China, not just those calculated by the NTA China Inbound Program.

According to China Elite Focus, a marketing and research agency based in Shanghai, “only 5% of U.S. hotels and 3% of US retailers have a Chinese version of their website. There is a huge, untapped potential, to convince more affluent Chinese tourists to discover the US for leisure trips”

And continued growth is on the horizon, according to the China Travel Trade Barometer. Nearly all Chinese tour operators surveyed (92 percent) project an increase in 2011 third-quarter bookings from China to the United States. And for the fourth quarter of 2011, 77 percent of operators project bookings to be higher, with only 8 percent anticipating a drop from the same period in 2010.