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Saturday, March 25, 2017, 11:15

Develop HK into leading regional cruise travel hub

By Gregory So

Last Saturday, Queen Mary 2 and Seabourn Sojourn berthed at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal simultaneously; and on Sunday, the terminal received Genting Dream and Costa Victoria in the morning, and MSC Lirica together with Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 in the afternoon.  It was the first time ever that four cruise vessels berthed at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal during different times on the same day. The Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui was also busy welcoming two international cruise vessels – Hapag-Lloyd Europa and Crystal Symphony at the same time. Only at one weekend, these eight cruise vessels brought more than 10,000 cruise visitors to Hong Kong. The cruise vessels were from multiple international cruise brands, with itineraries covering home-porting and transit calls at Hong Kong, and with both long and short durations. These illustrate clearly the diversified cruise tourism market in Hong Kong.

Develop HK into leading regional cruise travel hub The Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has gained considerable experience in receiving mega-sized cruise vessels. With the concerted efforts of the Tourism Commission, relevant government departments and the terminal operator through discussing the arrangements and preparing suitable operational plans, the overall operation and transport arrangements were smooth and orderly even under the exceptional scenarios of having four cruise vessels at berth on one day. This demonstrates the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal's capacity to receive and handle mega-sized cruise ships in order to support the rapid development of cruise tourism in Hong Kong.

Queen Mary 2 will return for its second visit of the year and berth at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal on April 1,bringing more than 2,000 cruise visitors to Hong Kong; most are overseas "fly-cruise" visitors who take flights to Hong Kong to join cruise journeys or end their cruise journeys at Hong Kong and fly home. The cruise line said the number of their "fly-cruise" visitors with cruise journeys starting at Hong Kong increased 30 percent last year. Most of these visitors would stay a few days in Hong Kong for sightseeing and shopping prior to their cruise, bringing economic benefit to Hong Kong.

A strategic direction for our cruise tourism development in Hong Kong is cultivating more diversified source markets by promoting "fly-cruise" tours. The government allocated additional funding of HK$10 million in the budget last year to cooperate with cruise lines or travel agents, on a matching basis, to promote "fly-cruise" tours through the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB). The program aims to encourage more overseas visitors to fly to Hong Kong to join cruises and stay overnight in Hong Kong before or after sailing. This can increase their length of stay and spending in Hong Kong, benefiting hotels, attractions, retail and related industries. The program receives positive feedback and is welcomed by the trade.

The government is committed to promoting cruise tourism. We will refine our strategic directions for cruise tourism development and launch corresponding initiatives from time to time to attract more cruise vessels and passengers to Hong Kong. Specific initiatives for this year include continuing with "fly-cruise" promotion to cultivate the Southeast Asian and long-haul source markets and introducing a shore excursion products scheme for cruise passengers, so as to encourage travel agents and the travel trade to design shore excursion itineraries with more local features, encourage more cruise passengers to visit Hong Kong, extend their stays and increase their spending, and enhance the attractiveness of Hong Kong as a cruise destination. Initiatives also include strengthening the promotion at the southern China market to increase the penetration of Hong Kong's cruise tourism in this. These measures aim to expand the source markets for cruise tourism in Hong Kong and benefit different sectors of the trade, so as to bring greater overall economic benefit to Hong Kong. The government will increase the resources allocated to HKTB in taking forward these initiatives.

With the concerted effort of stakeholders concerned, cruise tourism in Hong Kong has grown steadily over the past few years. The number of liners calling at Hong Kong increased from 89 in 2013 to 191 last year, a 115 percent jump. Cruise passenger throughput (arrivals and departures) increased 254 percent from 190,000 in 2013 to 677,000 last year. We expect the ship calls and passenger throughput will continue to grow this year and the number of ships calling at Kai Tak to reach about 200.

We see immense potential in developing cruise tourism in Hong Kong. We will continue to keep abreast of the latest developments in cruise tourism internationally and within the region. We will also evaluate the strategic development directions for cruise tourism periodically and launch suitable measures, with a view to developing Hong Kong into the leading regional cruise hub.

The author is the secretary for commerce and economic development of the Hong Kong SAR Government.

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