The head of Royal Caribbean – the line with the biggest fleet in Asia – has talked of how the region has the chance to become a Caribbean of the East.
President and COO Adam Goldstein said the attitude of Southeast Asian nations towards the cruise industry now had forward momentum.
And he praised Singapore in particular for its proactive work.
“The homeport community of Shanghai, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Singapore all see the opportunity and are very involved in the big cruise events – even hosting them. We interact all the time.
“ Singapore has been very proactive in creating a regional development fund and co-op marking efforts to go out into source markets like India and pitching to new markets. That’s all good
“What needs to happen is we need more ports-of-call infrastructure throughout the entire region. In theory there are limitless places that could be cruise destinations.
Just the Philippines itself could be like a Caribbean for China.
“But there is a very big difference between the theoretical supply of ports and the actual supply of ports-of-call.”
And the opportunities went well beyond wharves and ports. As more Quantum class mega liners arrive in Asia, passengers would need transport, attractions, shopping and experiences.
“It’s happening – never as fast as we would like. But the attitude of the ASEAN countries today compared to 10 years ago is day versus night”.
Mr Goldstein’s views are important. Royal Caribbean has an extremely proactive team on the ground in Southeast Asia helping with port development and infrastructure.
The cruise industry requires farsighted investment, as a billion dollar ship and a new port will often take years to begin producing revenue, and require a high level of expertise.
Royal Caribbean recently celebrated a decade in Southeast Asia.
Mr Goldstein was in the region attending conferences, including The Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali.
He also attended talks with government officials in Australia about port development. He believes Sydney plays an important role in a new trio of cruise destinations that plays out between China, Singapore and Australia.
Australia is set to announce another big rise in cruise numbers, with Carnival’s Executive Chair Ann Sherry estimating 1.2 to 1.3 million cruise passengers in 2017 – 20 per cent up on the 2015 figure of 1,058,000.
“This is a good news story today – but it has the capability to be a truly great news story for the region”, Mr Goldstein said.
“The world cruise order book is rapidly filling up for the next decade with new and bigger ships, many of which would end up in the region.”