This week, Travel Daily chats with Farriek Tawfik, Director of Southeast Asia for Princess Cruises, about the opportunities and challenges facing the cruise industry on Southeast Asia…
Q) Southeast Asia is currently experiencing a strong rise in cruise traffic (both in terms of deployments and passengers). How high do you think this can go, and can the region compete with major markets like the Caribbean and Mediterranean?
We are confident that the cruise industry in Southeast Asia will continue growing, as seen from the good response to our first homeporting season in Singapore from both the regional and international cruise markets, particularly for the 10 and 11-day Southeast Asia itineraries.
We are optimistic of witnessing a higher level of success for our second homeporting season from November 2015 to March 2016, offering the same extensive array of cruise trips throughout the region.
Southeast Asia has a unique charm of its own and is an ideal cruising region due to the wide array of sightseeing spots and activities that its exotic locations have to offer. Singapore can be the gateway to the ‘Caribbean of the East’ as passengers can embark on their cruise to the region from Singapore. The Singapore Tourism Board is also doing an excellent job to promote cruising in the region.
The region has year-round warm weather allowing for cruising during the school holiday periods and coincides with end of year vacation for many travellers.
The 17,000 islands here are surrounded by calm seas, and the region offers unique attractions in terms of culture, heritage and scenery offers destination appeal
Q) Which markets will drive future growth, both in terms of passenger origin and destinations?
Our biggest cruise markets in Southeast Asia are Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Based on our first homeporting season, most of our guests also originated from these countries and we see growth coming from these countries.
We also see growth coming from an emerging profile of Southeast Asian cruisers who are first-time cruisers and aged between 18-30 years old who prefer to go on short haul cruises around the region. Destinations in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are popular.
For long haul cruises, our 2014 Grand Mediterranean itinerary has proved to be popular with our customers, featuring seven-day voyages on our newest ship, the Regal Princess. Our Alaskan itineraries are perennial favourites.
Q) What proportion of guests on Princess Cruises’ Southeast Asian cruises originate from Southeast Asia, and are you seeing an increase in local business?
We see an increasing growth of guests from Southeast Asia for our homeporting season especially from first-time cruisers, young families and young working professionals.
There was also a good mix of international passengers from Australia, the US and Europe coupled with guests from this region who cruised with us during the last homeporting season and we expect that there will be an increase of passengers from Southeast Asia for our upcoming season as people are more aware of cruising as a holiday option, one that is both affordable and enjoyable.
As a result of the rising middle class in the region, we also see an uptake in bookings from our guests in Singapore and Southeast Asia for the Alaska and Mediterranean itineraries. This is also due to a growing interest in cruising, particularly to exotic destinations outside of Southeast Asia.
Q) Which “new” destinations in Southeast Asia do you believe have strong potential for the cruise industry?
We are definitely looking into including more ports in Southeast Asia for future homeporting seasons to grow the region’s cruise industry, but would need to consider details such as whether the port is able to accommodate larger ships, the facilities at the port or terminal and weather conditions, such as the monsoon season.
Q) What are the main challenges currently facing the Southeast Asian cruise industry?
One of the main challenges is the lack of adequate cruise infrastructural developments in destinations throughout Southeast Asia. Many of these ports do not have the facilities to cater to large ships, and governments need to continue investing in improvements or build new facilities to support the region’s cruise industry.
Southeast Asia’s cruise industry is a nascent one, and consumers may still hold back due to traditional associations with cruising. In order to capitalise on potential first-timer cruisers from Southeast Asia’s growing middle class consumer market, more awareness and education efforts need to be pushed out to better inform them about cruising. Consumer education and training for travel agents are especially important for the promotion of cruising and its attractiveness.
Q) And what future steps would you recommend the region take to maximise the potential of the sector?
Taking example from the Singapore Tourism Board, we should heighten efforts to collaborate closely with key stakeholders such as travel agents, tourism and port authorities, cruise terminal operators and cruise associations to promote cruising as a vacation of choice in the other Southeast Asian markets.
As an innovative leader in the industry, we constantly try to introduce new features to meet the needs of our potential passengers in Southeast Asia. We have long been the leader in building ships specifically designed to accommodate an extensive number of the most sought-after shipboard luxury – especially, the private balcony.