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The cruise tourism

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Tourism
Wordcount: 1937 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Although cruise tourism started in the early 1920s, it became more popular in the last half of the 20th century especially for the middle-aged, affluent demographic mainly in North America. It was a way for them to revel in the sun during winter months while avoiding the crowded tourist spots. The industry has since seen tremendous change in fortunes and is now actually the fastest growing sector within the tourism industry with an annual growth rate averaging 8% since 1980 (Robertsen, 2010). The most popular destinations are as follows with the Caribbean taking the lion’s share at 50%, the Mediterranean 15%, Alaska 8%, the trans-Panama Canal has 6% of the traffic while west Mexico and northern Europe account for 5% and 4%. The South Pacific sees around 2% of the total cruise tourists. Around 80% of all cruise tourists come from North America although that figure is expected to decline as other markets catch up in the coming years. With estimated global revenue of 27 billion US dollars and carrying approximately 18 million passengers around the globe, the cruise tourism industry is a major income earner for any economy.

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Although China currently sees around 10,000 cruise tourists in its ports in a year, the Chinese government is trying to institute measures to see this number go up to 600,000 passengers by the end of 2010 (Zhao, 2010). Some of the major hurdles that are seen as hampering the Chinese market include strenuous customs procedures, cabotage restrictions (a foreign flag ship is not allowed to call on more than a single Chinese port on one itinerary) and restrictions on Chinese cruise companies (Chinese companies cannot currently curry out cruise operations). Several events have helped to market China in the globe as well as increase the tourist numbers. One of them is the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The world financial crisis has also turned the world’s attention to China due to its improved infrastructure. This has benefited both outbound and inbound business numbers. China’s growing economy and large middle class population is also seen as a target for large cruise ship companies and many of them are already beginning to make China a key destination. In 2009 the Costa and Royal Caribbean International Cruises made bold moves by making Shanghai their home ports, increasing the travel options for Chinese cruise tourists. In fact the Cruise Industry News online magazine reports that Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan all reported double digit growth in the first months of 2010.


Cruise tourism in Europe in more developed than it is in China mainly because of its established ports and the distribution of income in European economies. G.P Wild report that about 2.5 million European nationals embarked on cruises from European ports (from a total of 2.8 million passengers) in 2005 while 13.1 million passengers visited European ports. They generated about 8.3 billion Euros in revenue, not counting the tremendous effect that the cruise industry has on other industries like ship building, restaurants, hotels and catering, sales and marketing, among others (2007). The cruising industry in Europe has been growing steadily over the years preceding the financial crisis leading to the dropping global share of the cruising traffic held by North America. This is because of the huge potential for cruise tourism in Europe. 3% of the North American population is cruising while it is 1% in Europe. This means that Europe has a greater potential for growth. Also, the new EU citizens from Eastern Europe are pushing up the demand as their lifestyles continue to change with their changing economic conditions. While cruising was formally the preserve of the middle aged, new products have been introduced that attract children, young adults and even the elderly (Cartwright & Baird, 1999). Ultimately, Europe offers the greatest growth potential in the cruise tourism industry. It offers the unique advantage that a large chunk of its population lives relatively near to the sea and so cruise liners see Europe as offering the biggest potential for growth.


In as much as there are many motives for taking a cruise, many traditional European passengers take cruises for reasons that can be summarized as the uniqueness of cruises. The perception of a cruise is that it gives them the opportunity to sample various locations in just one trip. Additionally, there is the common perception that one gets pampered on a cruise, treatment that they would not get anywhere else. Since the vast majority of Europeans have never taken a cruise, it is seen as something new and exciting. There are other opinions on cruising like; one can easily make friends on a cruise, one can shop for a variety of items, it is an opportunity to learn and it is the “in” thing in tourism right now (Mancini, 2004). Although the opinion of cruise tourism among Europeans is good, there is a problem with its uptake because of some perceptions. Some people view cruising as an activity for the rich.

The growth of the industry in China has also been influenced by Chinese consumer behavior. Mr. Qian Yongchan, chairman of China Communications and Transportation Association, summarized the behavior of the Chinese like this: the young and middle aged seek a higher quality of living while large corporations will choose cruise tourism as a means of encouraging their employees or to develop relationships with their clients (2009). The rest of the Chinese population, it seems, is disinterested in this form of tourism.



China’s sustained per capita GDP growth which now stands at 3,268 USD has led to the growth of an economically strong, young, middle class who want to enjoy luxury and opulence. Activities that were previously viewed as European are now being demanded. This has seen the growth of the many enterprises including tourism and cruise tourism in particular. Yongchan reports that the number of Chinese cruise tourists reached 93,000 in 2007 (2009). This goes to show that the perception of the Chinese tourist towards cruise tourism is changing.


The modern Chinese tourist has begun to value diversity in their tourist products. Chinese tourists have ventured out of the traditional markets in Taiwan, Europe and North America to go into Africa, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Cruise tours offer a good opportunity for them to do so.


The serge in Chinese tourist numbers is being motivated by the new found wealth of the common Chinese people, the growth of the middle class and the opening up of the Chinese market and economy. The Chinese government’s increased economic and social obligations in the world are also propelling the Chinese to tour more of the globe.


The world tourism industry has become more acceptable to the Chinese culture. They now offer products that are not seen as excessive according to Chinese culture. Chinese ingenuity is also having a significant effect on the industry.


The modern Chinese tourist does not differ much from the European tourist. Information technology makes certain that both consumers have access to the same information. Popular culture propagated by the media also means that the demands, like and dislikes of both sets of consumers is similar. Nevertheless, the Chinese tourist differs from the European in their experience. Europeans have been at this game for a long time while the market in China is just being opened up. Their expectations also differ in the sense that the Chinese tourist is more conservative than their European counterparts. For example, while casinos may be a big attraction to a European tourist, it may not pull in the crowds in China.

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The per capita GDP of the main Chinese coastal cities have grown to levels the same as those of medium developed economies. These will provide a strong foundation for passenger liner tourism in the future for China’s outbound cruise tourism. Its strong economic performance will be another asset (Yongchan, 2009). China’s diverse and scenic landscape will ensure that tourist numbers keep going up in the future and the plans instituted by the Chinese Transport and Communications Association to improve cruise tourism in the country will also see it rise to one of the top destinations offered by cruise liners (Dervaes, 2003).


Will the development of the cruise industry in China help Europe sell cruises to Chinese markets? The simple answer is yes. Development of the industry will not only benefit the Chinese market but Europe, North America and the whole cruise industry. Development of Chinese ports and shipbuilding industry will help the global industry by providing alternatives in the sector; the Chinese market will provide a new bracket of tourists while China itself will be a new destination for cruises from around the world.


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