Asia’s huge cruise potential – and where the big ships will be berthed, by Sean Treacy

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We speak to Royal Caribbean’s Managing Director, Asia Pacific, on the growth of cruising in the region, challenges in the market, and his new Miami-based role.

You’ve obviously got faith in the growth of Southeast Asia as a source market for Royal Caribbean. How big do you believe it can grow?

Our first year in Singapore saw one ship that carried 2000 guests, six sailings, and a yearly total of 12,000 guests. Just today, we’re seeing 15,000 guests. So you can see how quickly we’ve grown. What needs to happen is port development and infrastructure. Singapore can take a ship that’s big, but where do you go from Singapore? There needs to be upgrades for continued growth. But from the demand perspective, there’s huge potential.

Which countries are providing the most growth and passengers?

It’s not dissimilar to Singapore Tourism Board stats for total visitors to Singapore. We see growth in China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia ─ these are our top four. But everywhere’s growing, even Thailand and Vietnam.

Do you see new infrastructure in these countries and, if so, where?

Yes. In Penang, we recently announced intentions for a joint port expansion venture, which would allow an Oasis class ship to visit. In Vietnam, the port of Chan May covering Hue and Danang has recently been expanded to allow a Quantum class ship. In Thailand, they’re looking at developing Phuket further. The other country that’s keen to grow cruises is Indonesia. Recent joint meetings between Singapore’s prime minister and Indonesia’s president have included talks about building cruise ports in ten Indonesian markets ─ so that’s exciting.

You’ve recently celebrated 10 years in the region. What do you see as your biggest achievement?

Definitely the coming arrival of Quantum of the Seas, the largest ship in Asia to call Singapore home. And welcoming our millionth guest to Singapore earlier this year!

What do you see as the biggest challenge for cruises in the region?

Port infrastructure is number one. But also for ships of this size, making technology seamless from an immigration and customs perspective, so guests can spend more time onboard. When you have a ship of almost 5,000 passengers arriving at a port, it can create backlog and delays. Fortunately, at the recent ASEAN Tourism Forum, the minister mentioned looking for opportunities to improve that.

Tell us more about your new role in Miami.

I’ll be transitioning in August, managing international strategy for Royal Caribbean. I’ll also be looking at things like market development, like which markets to invest in more. I’ll still be very much involved in Asia Pacific, and in ASEAN as part of that.