Hong Kong is not in the best geographical location to serve as a cruise hub, considering mainlanders' travel preferences, a cruise operator says.
Mainland tourists like to visit modern countries, such as Japan and South Korea, and prefer short trips to tours of more than a week, said John Tercek, Royal Caribbean Cruises' vice-president of commercial development. But Hong Kong is geographically closer to Vietnam than to other East Asian countries, he noted.
Tourists who start out from Hong Kong would find it too much of a rush to include Japan or South Korea in, say, a five-day cruise, Tercek said.
"Vietnam has beautiful beaches … but the Chinese don't go to beaches," he said. "They prefer going north than south. They like shopping and enjoying Korean and Japanese culture."
Tercek was speaking this week on the sidelines of a cruise trade forum organised by the Tourism Board.
The travel industry is gearing up for the launch of the Kai Tak cruise terminal in June. Royal Caribbean Cruises, for example, is scheduled to send its Celebrity Millennium vessel out on a 16-night trip to Southeast Asia in February next year.
Hong Kong is looking to attract more companies to let their vessels dock at the city, and possibly make Kai Tak their home port.
But global cruise veterans were not likely to commit readily, Tercek said, as they needed to test the waters first before deciding whether to send more vessels to the city. "Can a ship make more profits by staying here than moving around?" he said.
Still, Hong Kong's expansion of its facilities was timely, given the mainland market's huge potential and the rapid development of cruising in Asia, said John Stoll, Crystal Cruises' vice-president of land and port operations.
The company will start or end two of its Asian cruise tours in Hong Kong this year, and will double that number next year.
Planned legislation to make mandatory the use of cleaner shipping fuel was no deterrent for Crystal Cruises, Stoll said. "We are already meeting the [proposed] requirements."