Cruise Industry

Royal Caribbean targets Chinese cruise tourists for 2019 Dubai cruise season

China has seen significant growth in the number of cruise tourists booking fly-cruises rather than domestic cruise itineraries, according to Jason Liberty, chief financial officer, Royal Caribbean Cruises, which is sure to be a good sign ahead of the cruise line’s return to the Arabian Gulf market.

“China continues to be an important market for us, and we saw significant yield growth for the product throughout 2018,” said Liberty. “Over half a million Chinese guests sail with us each year, mostly on sailings from China, but we are seeing a significant growth in outbound travel with 75% more Chinese guests on a non-China itinerary in 2019 when compared to just three years ago.”

More than 1-million Chinese tourists visited Dubai last year, which Royal Caribbean sees as a major opportunity.

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Dubai Cruise Tourism, an arm of Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM), has noticed the same growth in outbound Chinese cruise tourists, and in 2016 eased visa regulations for Chinese tourists boarding cruise ships in Dubai.

“In 2017, the number of Chinese tourist arrivals in the UAE exceeded one million for the first time and about 3.5 million Chinese tourists transited through the UAE,” says Ni Jian, the Chinese Ambassador to the UAE in comments published by Gulf News.

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.

Chinese cruise passengers are increasingly using 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.

Cruise ships sailing between Dubai and Asia, such as Celebrity Constellation, are expected to be particularly popular.

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“It is the world’s largest outbound travel market, and things are changing with regard to visa restrictions and group travel and what have you,” says Michael Bayley, President & CEO of Royal Caribbean International.

“We think that’s an opportunity, particularly as the brand becomes more and more well known in the China market and as we establish wider, broader, deeper distribution, then it becomes a really good opportunity for us in terms of that outbound growth,” he added.

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas will be homeporting in Dubai for the 2019/2020 season.

Royal Caribbean International is the flagship brand of Royal Caribbean Cruises, which also owns Celebrity Cruises. Both Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises will be homeporting in the Arabian Gulf this coming cruise season (November, 2019 to March, 2020).

Royal Caribbean will be returning to the Dubai cruise market with Jewel of the Seas, cruising roundtrip from Dubai on 7-night itineraries within the Arabian Gulf, while Celebrity Cruises will be continuing its successful Middle East deployment with Celebrity Constellation, cruising from Abu Dhabi to Singapore and back on several alternating two-week itineraries.

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