Leading cruise companies are urged to make Hong Kong a port of call

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 4:29am

With five months until the opening of the new cruise terminal in Kai Tak, tourism chiefs are trying to persuade international cruise companies to add the city as a port of call or make it their home port.

In the first cruise forum to be held in Hong Kong - in Hung Hom's Hotel Icon, from January 21 to 24 - the Tourism Board will tell senior executives of cruise companies why the city is not to be missed.

Among them is Carnival, the world's largest cruise company, which operates 100 ships under 10 brands including Princess Cruises, Holland America, Costa Cruises and Seabourn. Others on the guest list are Azamara Club Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Crystal Cruises and Star Cruises.

Asia remains a relatively untapped market for cruise business, said Kenneth Wong Cheuk-hung, the board's general manager of MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) and cruise.

"Three out of 100 American tourists join a cruise tour, but only four out of 10,000 Asian tourists do so," he said.

With the opening of the first berth at the terminal at the former Kai Tak runway, Hong Kong will be able to accommodate the world's largest cruise vessels, which were too big for Ocean Terminal. The second berth is expected by 2015.

Wong said Hong Kong could prove more attractive than Shanghai for residents of southern China. Cruise liners could take passengers on a round trip between Hong Kong and Taiwan, or a longer trip to Sanya city in Hainan province and Vietnam, he said. And new ports, including Japan and South Korea, could be added under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

In the meantime, 16 ocean liners are scheduled to berth in Kai Tak this year. The board aims to make Hong Kong a home port by next year.

The development of cruise tourism will not only benefit adventurous Hongkongers hoping to broaden their horizons. It is hoped it will also bring big-spending visitors to the city.

Last year, cruise passengers staying overnight spent an average of HK$4,833 per day, twice as much as conventional tourists.

To cater for short-stay tourists, the board has tailor-made three tours covering conventional draws, cultural experiences and cooking classes. There are rides on the Star Ferry and trams, and visits to The Peak, temples and even wet markets.

Wong explained: "In a new tour named Cook Like a Local, we will bring them to a wet market and explain how a local housewife selects groceries. Then we will bring the materials to a cooking studio where they can try making fried spare ribs."