Hong Kong: Marquee Port in Asia – Cruise Industry News

After reopening its borders in early 2023, Hong Kong is steadily recovering its prominent position in the cruise market in Asia.

Considered a major hub for cruise vessels in Asia, the city saw a total of 164 cruise ship calls last year, said Kenneth Wong, Hong Kong Tourism Board’s MICE & Cruise General Manager.

The number represents over 78 percent of pre-pandemic numbers, he told Cruise Industry News during an exclusive interview earlier this month.

The cruise operation is now gaining momentum, he noted. After 2023’s good foundation, there are positive signs on the horizon for 2024, Wong added.

In addition to more calls and passengers, Hong Kong is expecting more companies visiting its cruise terminals this year.

The number of brands hosted is set to climb from 18 in 2023 to 28 in 2024, he explained.

“More and more European brands are coming, including TUI – which is increasing its sailings compared to last year – and AIDA Cruises,” Wong noted.

Operating the Vasco da Gama, Nicko Cruises made its maiden visit to Hong Kong a few months ago, he said.

“These are all very international brands that we want to receive more. We don’t just want to rely on domestic or the mainland source markets; we also want to see more European and American visitors.”

Currently, one-third of the guests being hosted in Hong Kong arrive at the city on transit calls, while the remainder embark or disembark in the city as part of homeport or turn-around operations.

“We are trying to drive more turn-around calls as well because, among these passengers, the tendency to stay in Hong Kong will be higher,” Wong said.

Homeporting operations in the near future are highlighted by Royal Caribbean International, which is returning to Hong Kong for its first full season since the pandemic.

The program includes sailings onboard the Spectrum of the Seas in late 2024 and early 2025, Wong explained.

Resorts World Cruises is also an important player in the homeporting market in 2024, he said, with year-round operations out of Hong Kong.

After sailing from the city in February, Costa Cruises is scheduled to return in October for roundtrip sailings onboard the Costa Serena.

“These are homeport deployments, some of them seasonal, which are also increasing,” Wong highlighted.

Overall, Hong Kong is doing “quite fine” in terms of general visitor recovery, he added, with over 10 million tourists from different parts of the world arriving just in the first quarter of 2024.

The air capacity is also recovering well and is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, he added.

According to Wong, the airlift is important for Hong Kong’s ambitions to continue to serve as a major homeport in the region.

The government is working on building more infrastructure, with new road and high-speed rail investments set to facilitate access from Mainland China.

A third runway is also set to open at the city’s airport later this year, allowing for a major increase in passenger capacity.

“For cruise lines, it means we can facilitate more fly-cruise products and arrangements from different parts of the world. Together with our visa-free policy, I think it’s one of the major areas we can develop,” he explained.

With new attractions, new infrastructure, and accessibility, Hong Kong will be able to become a marquee port in the region over the next five years, Wong said.

“Our vision is that, whenever an international cruise line sails in Asia, they should visit Hong Kong,” he added.

For the future, the city is also looking into attracting more first-class vessels for their long-term deployments.

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