Asia is poised to become the next great growth opportunity for the cruise industry and Taiwan plans to be one of the reasons, according to Michael Chang, director of the Taiwan Visitors Association. Speaking at Seatrade in Miami, Chang said that Taiwan is experiencing record-high numbers of cruise visitors as more cruise lines continue to add Taiwan to their Asian itineraries.
“Asia is what Europe was to cruising 20 years ago – a new discovery – and we all know what has happened there. As they expand their operations globally, Taiwan is getting strong interest from major cruise lines, particularly as relations with China continue to improve. We are taking every opportunity to promote our port facilities and unique attractions to the world’s cruise vacationers,” Chang said. In addition to Star Cruises, which primarily serves the Asian market, several international lines and CLIA members now include Taiwan in a variety of cruises in the region. These include Azamara Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Silversea Cruises.
Approximately 450,000 cruise passengers are expected to visit Taiwan in 2009, representing a 15 percent increase compared to last year. Forty-two cruise calls are scheduled to visit Taiwan’s international ports in 2009, which is a 75 percent increase over the prior year. Four international ports are available in Taiwan - Keelung, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and Hualien – with room for further development. The island nation has a total of 11 ports.
Key to further growth of Asian cruises are the improving international relations with China, which Taiwan expects to continue, according to Chang. Already, new agreements allow ships to sail directly between Taiwan and China, which will make it easier and more convenient for cruise lines to include both countries in their Asian itineraries. And, with more than 100 flights a week between the two countries, international travelers have added flexibility in creating appealing cruise/land tour packages from Taiwan.
“As the international economic crisis turns around, the Far East will become an increasingly appealing cruise destination, offering outstanding value as well as attractions, history and culture unique to Asia,” Chang said. In the meantime, to meet the current demands of increasing cruise traffic and to prepare for further growth, Taiwan continues to invest in cruise-related projects. Keelung Harbor, Taipei’s homeport, has planned to construct a $78 million multi-functional building that would integrate cruise passenger traffic, an exhibition center, shopping mall and port offices. Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2013. According to Chang, Taiwan is also taking advantage of every opportunity to increase cargo shipping, particularly with China, which has 63 ports.