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China to become cruise superpower in Asia

Staff writer |
China will become the Asia-Pacific region's largest cruise market by 2020. There will be 4.5 million cruise travelers in China by the end of the decade, representing 33 percent annual growth from 2013, according to the Ministry of Transport.

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China's cruise market grew rapidly in recent years. Statistics from the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association show people made 1.4 million trips on cruise liners last year compared with about 10,000 in 2005.

The transport ministry guidance identified Northeast and Southeast Asia, the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea islands as the main areas for the country's cruise industry by 2020.

China's cruise ship industry has seen explosive growth in recent years and the nation will soon become the world's fastest growing emerging market for cruise tours, reports the party-run People's Daily, citing Cheng Juehao, deputy director of the Research Institute of Cruise Economy at the Shanghai International Shipping Institute.

China's coastal areas, including the island province of Hainan, have seen the prosperous development of the sector. This year alone, 190 cruise ships will bring more than 160,000 tourists to the Hainan resort city of Sanya, boosting its GDP by over 1.6 billion yuan ($258 million), the paper said, adding the figure is likely to break 2 billion yuan ($322 million) in 2015.

Figures compiled by the China Communications and Transportation Association showed that three major cruise harbors — Shanghai, Tianjin and Sanya — received a combined 377 cruise ships with 1.168 million tourists in 2013, a significant increase from 2012. Experts estimate that the market will contribute 51 billion yuan ($8.2 billion) to China's economy in 2020, the paper said.

International cruise ship operators have accelerated their operations in China. Currently, the three major international cruise ship firms — Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Star Cruises — have dispatched five cruise ships into the Chinese market, with an additional one coming in May.

Meanwhile, more and more domestic enterprises are stepping into the industry. Bohai Ferry Co recently bought a US cruise ship, the first medium-sized cruise ship fully owned and run by a Chinese firm. The ship can carry 1,000 passengers, and Bohai plans to establish a fleet in the future.

Several large-scale operators including Shanghai International Port Group are also planning to invest in the cruise ship industry, Cheng said, adding that cruise ship tours will gradually move from serving the general public to adding luxurious, high-end products.

The Ministry of Transport unveiled a guideline for the development of the country's cruise ship industry. The ministry said it will begin to develop the industry now that the nation's per capita GDP has reached over $5,000, while the industry will enter the fast expansion period when reaching $10,000-$40,000.

Currently, China's per capita GDP has broken above $6,000, and some coastal provinces have such figures already breaking above $10,000, reaching the standard for developing the cruise ship industry, the paper said.

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