UAE set to become major Chinese cruise destination as visa-free entry granted

The Chinese cruise market is one of the fastest growing in the world, with an increase this year in cross-border Chinese cruise passengers of 44% and a 35% increase in the number of cruise ships departing from Chinese ports.

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Some 629 cruise itineraries feature Chinese cities as ports of departure this year as all the world’s major cruise lines seek to capitalise on a booming middle class in the country, hungry to experience the convenience and all-inclusive fun of a cruise holiday.

The world’s top five cruise liner giants have all made forays into the Chinese market, helping China to become the largest and most dynamic cruise tourism market in the Asia Pacific region, according to Li Shihong, deputy head with China National Tourism Administration.

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The government is looking to develop cruise tourism, with ports at Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macao as important bases, according to Li.

However, many Chinese cruise passengers are also looking for foreign cruise destinations to experience, and the Middle East’s burgeoning cruise market is among their favourites, according to tourism officials in the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE is looking to capitalise on this and earlier this year announced plans to ease visa restrictions of Chinese visitors to the country.

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The news was announced via a tweet from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, who said that the move “affirmed our important relationship with China”.

About half a million Chinese visitors travelled to the UAE in 2015, according to Chang Hua, China’s ambassador to the UAE.

Chinese cruise passengers are expected to use Dubai as a departure point for Arabian Gulf roundtrip cruises as well as the many Asia-bound cruise itineraries that depart from Dubai during the Middle East cruise season.

These cruise itineraries have grown in number in the last few years as more cruise lines position ships in China during the summer.

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