Felix Chan Is Bullish About The Leisure Cruise Industry
Asia Is Sailing Into The Sunrise
In June this year, Norwegian Joy was launched at sea. The cruise ship is Norwegian Cruise Line’s most innovative to date, and is customised for the Asian traveller. More than anything, it indicates the company’s commitment to the region, spelling out its belief that cruising is on the rise here.
“Asia is one of the most rapidly growing markets for the company and the cruise industry,” says Felix Chan, Vice President of Sales Asia at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH).
“China remains a key market with high potential. Among the nearly 2.1 million cruise passengers from Asia, China accounted for almost half of the regional passenger volume in 2015.
“Southeast Asia also continues to be a high-growth region due to a rapidly emerging middle-class, as well as Japan, India and Hong Kong, which are some of our key markets.”
No surprise then that NCLH has committed significant investment to this market by introducing Norwegian Joy, revitalising its current fleet, and customising the overall experience for the Asian market.
The cruise company is the owner of three brands: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Each of them has a strong presence in the region. For instance last month, Seven Seas Voyager returned here, itself having completed a 25-day, bow-to-stern refurbishment in 2016 as part of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ $125 million ongoing fleet-wide refurbishment program.
Chan feels opportunities are abound in the market here. Leisure and family travel is an important segment, particularly for Norwegian Cruise Line, which is why it has dedicated activities and entertainment onboard every ship.
“We are also seeing MICE business as a growing opportunity for the region. Cruise ships provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for business events and incentive trips, offering organisers a convenient solution,” Chan points out.
On the other hand, the industry has its fair share of challenges. Asian travellers tend to be accustomed to shorter itineraries, and cruising is still relatively new to this market.
“As with all markets, the key challenge is to bring first time guests to the product. Once people try cruising they tend to become repeat guests. Our brands are quite new in this region compared to local competitors, but we have been working hard on overcoming this and we have seen tremendous growth as a result.”
Ask him if he thinks the industry is over-saturated and answers in the negative, “As a percentage of the population, the number of cruise passengers is still very small compared to other more developed markets, and the economic growth of Asia is still faster than the rest of the world. We are seeing our fastest rates of growth in the Asian markets.”
This is why he is very bullish about the future, pointing to “remarkable growth and demand” and NCLH’s full commitment to the region. Last year alone, it opened offices in Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, India and China.
But perhaps the best indication is the roll out of Norwegian Joy. Its attractions include a two-level competitive racetrack, a 3D laser dark ride, 28 different food and beverage outlets, and accommodation configurations that cater multi-generational family groups.
Says Chan, “This new ship is our direct response to demand from Asian travellers looking for a world-class cruising experience and we believe this will surpass and satisfy all of their needs.”