As a Chinese fond of traveling, I've always fancied cruise trips, given the pull of their special offerings. After a few experiences, however, I realize my dream cruise remains a wish yet to be fulfilled.
There is an unwritten rule in almost every business that if a company fully caters to the preferences of consumers, it will win the market.
The scale of the Chinese economy and its expected 14 million passenger trips of cruise travelers by 2035 are attracting cruise operators to follow the rule.
In the past few years, I have learnt that there are quite a few international cruise operators that provide Chinese food like steamed buns, fried dough sticks, hotpot, as well as entertainment activities of cross talk and plaza dance.
The aviation sector knows that Chinese travelers have a strong preference for anything large, new or first of its kind. I'd not be surprised if the cruise industry learns some lessons for aviation.
Perhaps, it already has. Almost all cruise brands are devoting their newest, biggest vessels and specially designed itineraries to the Chinese market, most of which are full of Chinese styles and elements.
For instance, Kent Zhu, president of Genting Cruise Lines, said China will receive the Global Dream, a 208,000 gross ton ship, in 2021. By 2022, Dream Cruises' five-ship fleet will be the youngest and most modern in the world, featuring the highest safety standards, build quality, speed, power and luxury finishes.
To suit local preferences, the Global Dream will introduce the first-ever theme park at sea, the world's longest (300-meter) roller-coaster at sea, the largest cinema at sea with eight screens, the world's first offshore DFST Plaza with a shopping area of nearly 1,600 square meters and more.
Helen Huang, president of MSC Cruises China, saw Chinese consumers' changing concept of cruise travel as one of the latest trends.
"Most of them used to think cruise was only a means of transportation to go somewhere. Nowadays, more and more consumers start to realize that with rich entertainment facilities and guaranteed privacy, the cruise itself can be an ideal getaway destination," said Huang.
Mario Zanetti, president of Costa Group Asia, said the latest trend of the Chinese cruise industry can be described as follows: family travel, culture-driven trips, immersive experiences, cruise-plus travel models and a wide variety of itineraries.
Costa Cruises is tailoring its services and products to meet the demands of its Chinese patrons. "The number of Chinese consumers who travel abroad is expected to grow by 9 percent annually toward 2022, reaching 220 million. Cruise travelers only account for 2 percent of the travel industry; however, they will grow to more than double the rate versus outbound travel," said Zanetti.
Well, China is abundant in natural resources like scenic marine spots across rivers, lakes and seas. I hope Chinese people would be able to enjoy high-quality voyages on cruise ships along the Yangtze River sooner than later.
Who knows, my dream cruise may be just round the corner? Can't wait to get onboard the Global Dream.