A busy 2014 for Shanghai’s cruise industry, as a record number of vessels dock in the city.
Confirmed visits by international cruise liners total 554 this year, increasing 42% above 2013.
Shanghai has become one of the most promising cruise markets in East Asia and some cruise liners are making the city their home port, said Zhu Guojian, of the Shanghai Tourism Administration.
The cruise market has been moving east in recent years, the market is growing in China and flourishing in Shanghai, Zhu said.
This year, the city’s two major cruise terminals, the Wusong International Cruise Terminal and Shanghai International Passenger Transportation Center, become the home ports for Royal Caribbean International’s Voyager and Mariner of the Seas, Costa Cruise’s Costa Victoria and Atlantica, and Carnival’s Sapphire Princess.
The number of cruise tourists to Shanghai is expected to increase by over 100% from last year and reach 2 million by 2020, according to Shanghai Tourism Administration.
The Wusong International Cruise Terminal in Baoshan District, one of Asia’s busiest cruise ports, said it expects to berth more than 200 vessels this year, almost doubling the figure from last year.
Shanghai aims to become a cruise ship center equal to Singapore and Hong Kong by the end of 2015. At that time, the direct economic contribution of the cruise industry to the city is estimated to reach 5 billion yuan (US$800 million).
Authorities said they will also enact preferential policies.
Quick access for big cruises with a large number of passengers and a short docking time will be provided to boost efficiency.
Hongkou District plans to open a duty-free shop at the international tourism harbor for liners in the North Bund area.
The Global Duty Free Store, featuring the world’s major luxury brands, will mainly serve tourists from abroad.
At this time, foreign tourists can only shop at duty-free stores at the departure terminals at cruise harbors. With the opening of new stores, they will be able to shop immediately after disembarking.
A 72-hour visa-free stay for cruise ship passengers docking in Shanghai is also expected this year. Last year, a similar policy at airports for transit passengers from 45 countries attracted more than 15,000 foreign visitors.
Officials at the Wusong terminal said the policy will provide convenience for tourists and encourage cruise operators to provide diversified products.
Despite the big numbers, the cruise market still faces challenges.
The main problem is that the route involving a Shanghai stop is not diversified, according to a report by the Shanghai Statistics Bureau.
It said South Korea is the only major destination for cruise ships docking in the city, and that few routes covered Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. There are even fewer cruises to Europe and Oceania.
Meanwhile, overseas tourists, around 66,000, only accounted for 16 percent of cruise passengers visiting the city between January and July last year, the report said.
The bureau suggested that more routes could be explored based on Shanghai’s geographic location.
The Shanghai Tourism Administration said it will gradually develop longer routes to Southeast Asian countries and make a Taiwan route operation.
It will also promote an insurance plan in case of cruise ship emergencies and study the feasibility of setting up a domestic cruise ship company registered in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.
In the past, cruise operations started in late March, but the earliest ship embarked in January this year. Tours are to operate through November this year, compared with October in 2013.