Costa Crociere, or Costa Cruises, opened its Shanghai representative office in 2006 to help better expose Chinese tourists to the cruise vacation concept. Leo Liu, China general manager of Costa Crociere, spoke with CHINA ECONOMIC REVIEW about where Chinese passengers are heading and challenges for the future.
Q: What trends have you seen among Chinese customers on your cruises?
A: The concept of a cruise vacation is relatively new in China. However, having successfully operated in the market for the past three years, we are starting to see an increasing awareness and demand for cruise vacations. Chinese tourists have accepted cruise vacations as a convenient and memorable holiday experience. To date, more than 55,000 Chinese tourists have boarded our Costa cruises.
Q: What cruises do you offer to China? Who accounts for most of the demand?
A: Both our China-operated cruise vacations and international cruise vacations are available to Chinese tourists. Families, couples, friends and MICE [meetings, incentives, conferences and events] groups make up most of our customers.
Q: Which cruises are most popular with Chinese tourists?
A: We have specially designed cruise vacations for summer and winter. In winter, our cruise will call at destinations including Vietnam, Hong Kong and Sanya. With Japan and South Korea increasingly popular among Chinese tourists, our summer route, which calls to Fukuoka and Kagoshima in Japan and Cheju in South Korea, has become an ideal cruise vacation for our customers.
Q: For Chinese travelers going to Europe, which destinations are most popular?
A: Destinations in the Mediterranean, such as the Greek Aegean Islands or Rome, tend to be very popular. There is not only beautiful scenery, but also fascinating culture and history, making it extremely attractive to tourists from China. We have a number of different Mediterranean cruise products, covering many historic European, North African and Middle-Eastern cities and stunning beach resorts along the Mediterranean coast.
Q: What major challenges are you facing with regard to China?
A: Our biggest challenge continues to be that the concept of a cruise vacation is still relatively new in China and tourists may not understand this product well. Many still regard cruising as a means of transport instead of looking at it as a new way to have a vacation. As the first international cruise operator in China, we have faced numerous difficulties educating the Chinese market about cruise vacations, but we will continue with our efforts to promote the vibrant growth of the industry.