ASEAN pledge to further develop cruise an encouraging sign
While industry players welcome ASEAN tourism ministers’ commitm ent to grow cruise tourism in the region, hurdles still remain.
A joint ASEAN Declaration on Cruise Tourism was officially endorsed at this year’s ASEAN Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai, one year after plans to do so were announced.
Michael Goh, senior vice president – International Sales, Genting Cruise Lines, said, “Previous ASEAN joint initiatives had laid the foundation and we are optimistic that these continued joint collaborations in best practices for the cruise industry will spur the growth of cruise passengers in the region.”
However, he believes more needs to be done, adding that one of their key hopes “is to see greater synergies among the neighbouring countries in creating a seamless cruising experience by exploring the feasibility of implementing a visa free or a single visa pass for cruise passengers cruising within the highly potential ASEAN cruise circuit.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises managing director, Asia Pacific, Sean Treacy, noted that the joint declaration “underscores a fundamental understanding that cruising is a regional business”, but emphasised that port development remains key for the cruise industry in Southeast Asia.
He said, “The industry trend nowadays is increasingly towards larger ships (around 140,000 GRT or more; carrying 3,000 or more guests) being deployed here to meet the growing demand for cruising. We hope to see upgrades in port infrastructure in the region soon to accommodate larger ships and passenger loads including building proper cruise terminals, and improvements in tourism infrastructure near the ports. This can in turn allow for greater variety in cruise itineraries.”
While more tourists are going to Vietnam, complemented by improving tourism infrastructure and new and expanded ports in the pipeline, Phan Xuan Anh, chairman of Viet Excursions, believes that it is important to now look at scattering the influx of tourists to different parts of the country – from the highlands in the south to the remote Mekong River Delta – so as to enhance the shore experience for passengers.
On its part, Viet Excursions plans to look into renewing local experiences and tour products to entice repeat Asian cruisers, while introducing wellness plans to target the new middle-aged demographic.