New infrastructure buoys ASEAN cruise sector

New infrastructure buoys ASEAN cruise sector

Voyager of the Seas
Voyager of the Seas will homeport in Singapore

The cruise industry in Southeast Asia is set to grow, with ASEAN countries upgrading their cruise infrastructure to cater for an expected surge in intra-regional demand.

Sepang in Malaysia, Subic in the Philippines, Benoa in Bali and Singapore are all being developed or upgraded to accommodate more cruise lines.

This year, the main infrastructure developments have been the new 28,000m² Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore which began operations in May and can accommodate the world’s largest cruise ships and 6,800 passengers at a time. It now operates in tandem with the Singapore Cruise Centre which recently completed a US$11 million renovation.

In Indonesia, facilities at the port of Benoa are also being expanded and upgraded. About 200 cruise ships will visit Indonesian ports this year, double the amount seen 10 years ago.

“The wave of new and upcoming improvements in cruise infrastructure across ASEAN is a significant boost to the region’s cruise industry,” said Dr Liu Zinan, Royal Caribbean’s Managing Director for China & Asia, who is attending the second annual Cruise Shipping Asia Pacific event in Singapore this week. “This is shown by our company’s unprecedented number and size of ships here this year. With more developed ports here, which are essential for growing cruise markets and attractive itineraries, more international cruise operators like us will be drawn to ASEAN.”

Major cruise lines have increased their presence in Southeast Asia. Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa and Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas will become two of the largest cruise ships ever to homeport in Asia. Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Millennium will also homeport in Singapore this year, while the company’s Mariner of the Seas, which is similar in size to Voyager, will also homeport there from 2013.

The new 28,000m² Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore
The new 28,000m² Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore

Apart from better infrastructure and greater demand, cruise industry leaders say the cruise business in Southeast Asia is also being boosted by ASEAN governments’ commitment to the sector. The region’s tourism ministers are planning to tap into the Southeast Asian market by launching ‘ASEAN for ASEAN’ cruise promotions.

“The cruise boom in ASEAN is only just beginning,” said Dr Ong Hong Peng, Secretary General in Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism and Chairman of the ASEAN Product Development Working Group. “Building the human resources, knowledge and marketing skills for the cruise industry as well as the physical infrastructure is our new challenge.”

At the ASEAN tourism ministers’ meeting in the Indonesian city of Manado in January, the ministers pledged to develop the cruise industry by supporting the organisation of cruise workshops, strengthening collaboration in joint marketing efforts, encouraging port infrastructure developments and developing new cruise itineraries along three cruise corridors: the Malacca Straits, Karimata Strait/Java Sea/Flores Sea, and South China Sea/Gulf of Thailand.

Since then, Indonesia and Vietnam have both hosted ASEAN cruise workshops to help share best practices and develop regional itineraries.

As Cruise Shipping Asia Pacific opens in Singapore, UBM, the event’s organiser, said that 63% of the exhibitors will be from ASEAN – up from 46% last year. Demand for the travel agent cruise training workshop during the event has exceeded capacity.

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