The potential of growth of the Chinese society, and its desire to explore the world are crucial factors for the cruise industry’s future, a high-ranking representative for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a recent interview.
“We believe what we are seeing today is just the beginning of a trend, with respects to Chinese tourists,” CLIA Italy’s national director Francesco Galietti told Xinhua.
Some aspects would so far distinguish Chinese from other tourists cruising in Italy.
“The first is a strong preference for cultural heritage cities such as Rome, Florence, and Venice, and a second aspect is that, when they visit Italy for the first time on cruise ships, they tend to repeat the travel, maybe in another way,” Galietti explained.
A third element would be related to a specific city, Venice, and to its power of attraction through the years.
“An important aspect we observe is a sort of ‘Silk Road tourism’ in that city… Because Venice used to be one of the final destinations of the ancient Silk Road,” he said.
Despite an increasing tourism flow from China to Europe, Chinese would yet represent still a large world to explore for cruise operators. “We believe Chinese are critical for our industry,” Galietti stressed.
“The potential of the Chinese society, and the Chinese people’s will to explore the world and put their own culture in contact with western culture… This is very important to us, and CLIA cruise lines are aware of that,” he said.
The changing trend in Chinese tourism would also impact China’s major shipping operators, whose presence used to be much limited to trade.
“Take Chinese COSCO shipping company as example: it is a big name in cargo, and we are now seeing its transition from a leadership in this sector towards tourism… It will be interesting to see whether (cities of) destinations will be able to match this growing demand from Asian tourism,” he said.
According to the CLIA representative, China’s domestic cruise market is also going through an unexpected phase.
“At the beginning, cruise lines thought that they would create hubs in China for the Chinese market, through river trips, domestic cruises, and so on… Whereas now, we see that it is not just the regional market expanding,” Galietti explained.
As such, cruise lines have adjusted and arranged for longer trips from China to other destinations, and some companies within CLIA have developed a strong footprint in Asia.
“I am thinking especially to Royal Caribbean International and Carnival, and also to Italy’s leading shipbuilding company Fincantieri, which has opened a big production site in China,” he said.
The prestigious travel publication “Shanghai Traveler’s Club magazine” published this month its first ever issue entirely about the Caribbean, featuring Jamaica and Tobago as well as cruise stories in the Caribbean. ” We have published this special issue because our readers told us they wanted to experience the Caribbean, while traveling on luxury cruise boats or super yachts between islands” told us Pierre Gervois, Publisher of the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine.
The cruise industry impacts widely on the European economy as a whole, and the sector registered a 40.2-billion-euro (44.6 billion U.S. dollars) output in 2014 with a 2.2 percent increase over 2013, according to CLIA data.
This performance led to the creation of almost 10,000 new jobs in Europe last year, bringing the overall number of people employed in the sector up to some 348,000.
According to the association, Italy is the country benefitting most from the cruise sector in Europe, despite a slowdown in 2014 compared to other European competitors, and visiting the country on cruise ships would remain a special attractiveness for tourists.
“We are speaking of a country that is a peninsula: the largest portion of Italy’s perimeter is on water… So, explore the country with cruising indeed makes sense and has something special,” Galietti said.
Source: New China/ Xinhua agency