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How far is it from the "dream" docking? Tianjin International Cruise

  The Dream is a cruise ship. On September 27, it set sail from the home port of Tianjin International Cruise. As the first batch of cruise ships to sail out of the home port of Tianjin International Cruise, can it become a beacon to start the market?

During the Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day, the "Mediterranean" of China's large cruise operator AIDA Cruises officially set sail and opened international routes from Tianjin to Sasebo and Fukuoka in Japan China's first domestically produced large-scale cruise ship "Aida ·The "Modu" was officially named and delivered, and it is expected to start its first commercial voyage on January 1, 2024....Since September 19, the General Office of the Ministry of Transport issued a document to fully resume international cruise transportation in and out of China's cruise ports, cruise home ports and cruise companies in various parts of China have taken frequent actions, and the recovery of the international cruise market has accelerated.

A number of industry insiders said that the current supply of China's international cruise market is still insufficient. This stems from the wait-and-see attitude of international cruise companies on China's market, the long deployment cycle of international cruise ships, and the shrinking of tourism employees.

  China's international cruise market pressed the fast-forward button

In order to promote the recovery of China's international cruise industry, in March this year, the Ministry of Transport issued the "International Cruise Transportation Orderly Pilot Resumption Plan" proposed that the pilot waterway ports will be tentatively designated in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and then increased according to the situation. China's international cruise market is "restarting".

  On August 10, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism released the list of countries and regions that have resumed outbound group tours for the third batch. Among them, Japan and South Korea, the two major destinations of cruise routes departing from China's home ports, are listed. More than a month later, the General Office of the Ministry of Transport issued a statement to fully resume international cruise transportation in and out of cruise ports in China.

The market moved quickly: on September 19, AIDA Cruises Co., Ltd. announced its first domestically produced large cruise ship, AIDAThe "Modu" will set sail from Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Port on January 1, 2024 and officially start commercial operation. On September 25, the "Resorts World One" cruise ship arrived in Sanya, Hainan Province from Hong Kong, and Sanya Port ushered in the first international cruise ship to arrive in Hong Kong after China's full resumption of international cruise transportation. On September 27, AIDA Cruises "Mediterranean" and Oriental Cruises "Dream" set sail from Tianjin International Cruise Home Port respectively, and Tianjin International Cruise Home Port became the first cruise home port in the north to resume sailingOn September 29th, the home port of Qingdao cruise ship officially resumed, and the "Blue Dream Star" cruise ship set sail from Qingdao, carrying nearly 1,000 tourists on the journey of Qingdao-Jeju-Shanghai, South Korea

A number of interviewed industry insiders used "charcoal in the snow" to evaluate the benefits brought by the full resumption of sailing to the international cruise industry. In fact, as early as the pilot phase of the resumption of sailing, many consumers could not wait to return to cruises. Taking Shanghai as an example, as of August this year, the ticket revenue of Shanghai's cruise industry has exceeded 300 million yuan.

Judging from the current hot pre-sale data, some international cruise head companies have confidence in China's cruise market. Liu Zinan, senior vice president and chairman of Royal Caribbean Group in Asia, said that the company announced and launched the annual international cruise route departing from Shanghai in 2024 on June 29. On the first day of sales, ticket bookings doubled at an all-time high. In less than a month and a half since the start of sales, the direct sales channel has already completed the annual sales target set earlier. In less than two months, the travel agency channel completed the "cabin cut" and deposit payment for all voyages from 2024 to 2025.

The Tianjin International Cruise Home Port, which has just resumed sailing, also switches to the "hot mode" with one click. From September 27th to October 6th, Tianjin International Cruise Home Port received a total of 5 international cruise ships, with a total of 12,000 tourists. Chu Jiayi, head of Tianjin Xingyun Holiday International Travel Agency, introduced that taking the "Mediterranean" voyage on September 30 as an example, the tickets sold by the travel agency "cut cabin" have been sold out in early September, and about half of the tourists come from Hebei, Shanxi and other places.

A number of industry insiders are full of confidence in the recovery of China's international cruise market. Liu Zinan said that after more than ten years of rapid development of doubling the market size every year, China's cruise economy has begun to take shape. After this round of industry recovery, it is not impossible for the market size to maintain an annual growth rate of 20%. At the same time, under the guidance of policies in many places, the cruise industry will move towards high-quality development.

  It will take time for the cruise industry to fully recover

Although major cruise companies have made frequent moves, some consumers feel that the current supply of cruise market is still less than expected. The most intuitive feeling is that there are few cruises departing from the country, and there are not many tickets for "good time" and "good price". At the same time, many cruise ships to consumers' ideal destinations depart from abroad, and some cruise enthusiasts have to wait and see for the time being.

Ye Xinliang, deputy dean of the School of Management of Shanghai University of Engineering Science, said that major international cruise companies have a wait-and-see attitude towards the Chinese market. Dong Zichen, deputy general manager of Tianjin International Cruise Home Port Co., Ltd., introduced that Tianjin is the largest cruise home port in northern China, and since the beginning of this year, the Tianjin International Cruise Home Port has received only 30 ships, although it is affected by the resumption of sailing in the fourth quarter, but it is still far from the peak of the annual 175 ships. Industry insiders also revealed that up to now, of the six international luxury cruise brands that have been deeply involved in China's international cruise market, only two international cruise companies, Royal Caribbean and MSC Mediterranean, have announced plans to resume sailing to China next year.

At the same time, some industry insiders said that the cruise industry has the attribute of heavy assets, and it takes a certain amount of time and economic cost to "restart". At the same time, the cruise industry is complex, and after the announcement of the resumption of sailing, it takes a lot of time to prepare for ship maintenance and route formulation, and it is inevitable that the resumption of sailing will be slow.

Taking the Dream as an example, before berthing at its home port in Tianjin in July, the Dream completed a complete renovation in Zhoushan City, Zhejiang Province, which lasted five and a half months. The follow-up decoration arrangement, system commissioning, crew training and other "soft decoration" were carried out for nearly two months.

The shortage of employees has also become one of the constraints to the rapid recovery of the international cruise industry. Since the beginning of this year, the demand for cultural tourism has "exploded", while the number of employees in the tourism industry has shrunk significantly in the past three years. According to the National Travel Agency Statistical Survey Report released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism every year, from 2019 to 2022, the number of direct employees in travel agencies nationwide has shrunk from 416,000 to 234,000, and the number of tour guides who have signed labor contracts has decreased from 122,000 to 82,000.

  "Lack of manpower" is even more obvious in the cruise industry, where group tours are the main mode of operation. Ye Xinliang said that the cruise industry has been interrupted for too long, and many cruise companies have had to lay off staff or reduce the size of their staff to adapt to the decline in demand, and it is inevitable that they will face staff shortages during the resumption of sailing. Chen Ranfeng, CEO of AIDA Cruises, said that the current crew recruitment is the focus of AIDA Cruises' resumption of sailing, "which requires a lot of lead time".

After the resumption of outbound group tours to Japan and South Korea, the cruise industry has returned to the group tour mode of relying on travel agencies to organize travel, and the number of employees in the tourism industry has shrunk, which has objectively affected the recovery progress of the industry.

Liu Zinan predicts that it will take about one to two years for China's international cruise industry to fully recover. Zheng Weihang, executive vice president and secretary general of the cruise yacht branch of the China Communications and Transportation Association, believes that China's consumer market has great potential. In the context of consumers' pursuit of quality consumption and the continuous development of China's cruise construction, after 2 to 3 years of recovery, China's cruise market will usher in the "second golden development decade", showing the common development of the whole industry chain.

  Take multiple measures to promote the cruise industry to accelerate its recovery

In the context of the prosperity and recovery of the global cruise market, the demand for cruise tourism is becoming increasingly strong. According to data released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise tourism market will reach 31.5 million passengers by 2023, and by 2027, this number will reach 39.5 million. By 2028, more than 60 new ships will be added to the global cruise fleet, bringing the total number of cruise ships to 499.

Many interviewees believe that since the beginning of this year, Shanghai, Tianjin and other places have respectively issued the "Shanghai Action Plan for Promoting the High-quality Development of the International Cruise Economy (2023-2025)" and "Implementation Rules for Encouraging the Development of Cruise Tourism in Tianjin" and other relevant policies, which will effectively promote the business of cruise companies and tourism enterprises.

Industry insiders believe that the cruise industry, which has accelerated its recovery under the guidance of policies, is shifting from the previous way of earning foreign exchange to showing the image of a country or city and driving the high-quality development of the headquarters economy and port economy. However, the cruise industry, as a market-oriented operation and capital-intensive "double high" industry, on the one hand, should be based on creating a market-oriented, law-based, international business environment to stabilize corporate confidence and expectations, on the other hand, explore the domestic cruise market, create diversified products for the current new consumption trend of the cruise industry, and seek new industry growth points.

In addition, many practitioners are keenly aware of changes in consumer behavior in the cruise sector. Liu Zinan said that compared with traditional cruise consumer groups such as the elderly and families, the young customer base is gradually growing. "This requires the cruise industry to create a new consumption scene to serve new customer groups, and attract well-known international and domestic business entities and consumer brands to gather. Liu Zinan said. In addition, as the demand of tourists gradually tends to be quality and diversified, cruise companies should adjust their product structure in a timely manner, and strengthen the development and supply of cruise products such as customized tours and independent travel while stabilizing group tourism products.

From the perspective of the overall cruise market, in addition to international cruises, China also has a huge market in domestic cruise ships, and more local cruise companies will appear in the future and provide customized routes and services for Chinese passengers. Ye Xinliang believes that by creating more domestic routes and themed cruises combined with Chinese culture, we can provide domestic tourists with diversified tourism experiences and high-quality services, thereby promoting the growth of the domestic cruise market.


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