Southeast Asian Countries unite to launch cruise brand

Southast Asian nations have joined forces to launch a single cruise brand as they bid to lift the profile of the region as a destination and broaden the tourism market.

With neighbouring China driving a sizable chunk of the cruise industry’s growth in the Asian region — the fastest-growing worldwide, the new push by ASEAN reflects efforts to attract more ships to the 10-member countries.

Tourism ministers unveiled a new logo — a lively colourful wave formation reflecting the region’s diversity — and the tagline “feel the warmth” at a summit in the Philippines last month.

The launch of the unified regional brand spearheaded by Singapore comes ahead of ASEAN’s 50th anniversary in 2017, with the association set to mark the occasion with a year-long travel campaign to market the region as a destination.

The Asian region has already been experiencing spectacular growth in cruise passenger volumes from 775,000 to almost 1.4 million passengers between 2012-14 — a 34 percent annual growth rate, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) — although China dominates the market with an almost 50 percent share.

Within Southeast Asia, Indonesia is expected to experience the biggest jump in cruise passenger volumes — a 303.4 percent rise to 238,000 from 2012 to 2020, according to data published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last year.

Malaysia, which was the source of 144,000 cruise passengers in 2012, is projected to double its passenger volumes by 2020. Singapore — another key source of passengers as well as the departure port for most cruises in the region — is forecast to record a 98.9 percent increase in volumes to 181,000 by 2020.

Across the entire Asian region, including China, cruise passenger volumes are expected to grow from 1.3 million in 2012 to almost four million in 2020, the OECD said.

The growth potential in the market is also reflected in total international arrivals to ASEAN, which are projected by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to rise to 123 million by 2020, 152 million by 2025 and 187 million by 2030.

While Singapore will continue to be the starting point for larger cruise ships’ itineraries, the UNWTO said in a report last month that it expects other ports at Bangkok in Thailand, and Kota Kinabalu and Penang in Malaysia, to also serve as turnarounds ports, although accessibility is more limited.

Bali is projected by the UNWTO in the same report to grow as a turnaround port and major cruise destination, particularly once Indonesia removes its cabotage policy against multiple calls within the country on a single itinerary.

In a push to expand the market beyond the established destinations, cruise and river tourism has been highlighted as one of the key goals under ASEAN’s tourism strategy for the decade to 2025, with the development of infrastructure around such travel set to be the subject of a position paper this year.

Cambodia, Lao, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam are already part of a study exploring river-based tourism in the Mekong region. More than 40 ports and landings along the river were identified as ripe for development following a meeting in Vietnam in December, as were air and land transportation and accommodation to the region.

Other initiatives being worked on include the publication of a Southeast Asia cruise map.