The October 24-26 event, back after a four-year hiatus, is joined by hundreds of participants from around the world. It coincides with Hong Kong’s Wine and Dine Festival, a four-day event starting October 26 which delegates are invited to attend, followed by Taste Around Town, which will bring a host of gastronomic experiences around the city throughout November.
‘Seatrade Cruise is excited to be back in Asia after four long years and indeed delighted to be here in Hong Kong,’ said Mary Bond, group portfolio director at Seatrade Cruise following a lively performance by the Hong Kong Dance Company. ‘We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong Tourism Board in making this conference possible.
More than 300 participants from 23 countries
‘With the joint efforts of destinations and cruise lines, we have seen a gradual recovery of cruise tourism in the region. This event is welcoming over 300 participants from 23 countries – which is a truly amazing feat considering what the region has been through and bodes well for its re-emergence and future, which we will be hearing a lot more about over these coming days.’
Kevin Yeung, secretary for culture, sports and tourism, government of the Hong Kong SAR, said that following the resumption of normal travel earlier this year, tourism in Hong Kong is recovering rapidly. Visitor arrivals ballooned some 2.5 times from 4.4m in the first quarter to 10.4m in the third quarter, with the destination welcoming more than 25m visitors this year. On the cruise front, Hong Kong was the first port in Northeast Asia to reopen for international cruise travel in January this year.
‘Indeed Hong Kong has much to offer to our cruise partners and the ease to move around in Hong Kong has never failed to impress visitors,’ said Yeung. ‘Cruise passengers are dazzled with the many choices we have for their on-shore excursions. We would continue to enhance Hong Kong’s attractiveness as a cruise destination which is a major part in our tourism strategy.’
He continued, ‘We have introduced quite a number of new tourism offerings, these include two world-class museums, Asia’s largest contemporary art museum M+ and the Hong Kong Palace Museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District, the upgraded Peak Tram and the crystal cable cars of Ngong Ping 360, new attractions and live performances at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and Ocean Park.
‘Meanwhile, together with our local tourism trade we are also developing attractive itineraries and products filled with cultural and heritage tourism elements, creating authentic neighbourhood experiences for visitors, revitalising rural islands by introducing art elements and island-hopping, and enriching our green offerings by enhancing our hiking trails.’
Hong Kong is also expanding its reach for potential cruise travellers in mainland China, particularly the Greater Bay Area where there are nine cities in Guangdong, he said, in addition to Hong Kong and Macao. They together host a total population of over 86m with a GDP of over RMB13 trillion in 2022.
‘Connectivity overseas is equally important to sustain our fly-cruise business. The passenger traffic of our Hong Kong International Airport, which can reach over half the world’s population within a five-hour flight, is expected to achieve full recovery next year, while the Third Runway system to be fully commissioned in the same year will significantly increase both the passenger and cargo capacities for future growth.’
Speaking of infrastructure, Yeung said, ‘Our Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has made substantial progress over the past few years, a new Mass Transit Railway line serving the district was fully opened in 2021. The Kai Tak Sports Park, which comprises a 50,000-seat Main Stadium and other sports and recreation facilities, is expected to be completed by phases from end of next year. It will be a major venue for international events and hence new opportunities for themed-cruise itineraries. Also, a major trunk road (the Central Kowloon Route) will be completed in 2025 and it will provide a quicker connection between the Terminal and West Kowloon.’
Yeung said Hong Kong Tourism Board will continue to be the ‘one-stop shop’ for supporting cruise lines’ deployment in Hong Kong, sharing the industry’s vision for a more sustainable future. ‘In tandem with the berthing of the first LNG-fueled cruise ship in Hong Kong next autumn, relevant government bureaus are actively exploring the provision of LNG bunkering services for ocean-going vessels,’ Yeung explained. ‘We have also reactivated the study on installation of on-shore power system in the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal.’
Fly cruising, homeporting
‘Let’s rebuild Asia cruising together,’ declared Dane Cheng, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board, quoting the theme of the two-day event. He also shared positive news about Hong Kong’s tourism recovery and how it is helping to drive the long-term growth of the cruise industry.
On Hong Kong’s potential for fly-cruise products, he said, ‘The recovery of flight capacity from mainland China and other Asian countries has played a significant role in attracting visitors back to Hong Kong. The global connectivity of Hong Kong has resumed to over 110 destinations, and the seat capacity will be recovered to 95% from mainland, and other Asian destinations are catching up at a strong pace of 78%.’
During the peak summer season, the overall inbound arrivals to Hong Kong experienced a recovery of 84%. Specifically, arrivals from mainland China, Southeast Asia and MICE sectors demonstrated an even more impressive rebound, reaching 90% of the pre-pandemic level.
Cheng said that Hong Kong serves as a crucial gateway, connecting businesses and individuals to a vast pool of 86m potential customers within the Greater Bay Area. He stated that Greater Bay Area will also serve as the most important source market for future Hong Kong homeport sailings.
Surpassing pre-pandemic figures
Zooming into Hong Kong’s cruise tourism recovery, Cheng said that Hong Kong received 128 international cruise calls up to October this year with passengers from over 80 countries, and capacity on par with the pre-pandemic level.
Hong Kong is forecast to receive 135 calls from 24 cruise lines in the next six months, exceeding the number of calls made during the same period in 2018-2019.
‘While traditional activities such as shopping, dining, exploring neighbourhoods, and visiting theme parks continue to be attractive, there has been a surge in demand for new experiences related to arts, culture, and nature,’ he added. ‘Hong Kong’s commitment to developing new attractions and revitalizing evergreen ones, keeps the destination exciting and appealing.
Visitors are finding more reasons to extend their time in Hong Kong, with diverse experiences and immersive exploration opportunities. Hence, cruise lines and travel agents are encouraged to develop more pre-cruise and post-cruise extension programs in Hong Kong which would be well received by passengers.’
Cheng asserted, ‘The Hong Kong government and the Hong Kong Tourism Board are committed to driving the fast growth of the cruise industry in Hong Kong as well as in Asia. We will continue to provide substantial and unwavering support to the cruise trade and our cruise line partners, from deployment incentives, marketing cooperation and regional collaboration.’
The cruise destination of choice
Dr Y.K. Pang, chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said the destination is rapidly reestablishing its status as Asia’s cruise hub, with three factors making Hong Kong a preferred cruise destination: ‘Firstly, we are well connected. Hong Kong is a super-connector between mainland China and the rest of the world with a High Speed Rail network and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. These infrastructures enable visitors to conveniently travel to and from cities across the Greater Bay Area within an hour. This not only provides passengers with more immersive experiences but also attracts a larger number of visitors from mainland China to embark on their cruise journeys.
‘Secondly, we are cosmopolitan. Hong Kong is an international trade centre, shipping hub, and aviation hub, but it is also a melting pot of diverse cultures and showcases spectacular natural scenery… Thirdly, we are dynamic. We have a year-round calendar of mega events that cater to every taste and interest. From fine dining and festivals to sports, arts, and culture…’
He said Hong Kong Tourism Board has worked tirelessly to boost its tourism and cruise industries, welcoming more than 23m visitors in the first nine months of this year.Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved. Seatrade, a trading name of Informa Markets (UK) Limited.
Source : Seatrade Cruise News