Here’s one idea the Philippines can copy from Singapore, build a cruise terminal to draw cruise tourists to the country.
Southeast Asia: The next Mediterranean of cruises?
By Karla Cripps 27 March, 2012
Land ahoy, cruisers. Singapore’s new International Cruise Terminal (ICT) is set to open later this year, with officials hoping the massive US$400 million facility will bring in some of the world’s largest ships.
The ICT will feature two berths, an arrival and departures hall, advanced passenger processing technology and a ground transportation area.
In other words, plenty of room for cruise-loving travellers looking to cram as many experiences as possible into a single vacation.
Cruises are certainly getting more popular in Asia, with several of the big global lines — Royal Caribbean, Silversea, Holland America and Celebrity — already offering passengers itineraries in the region.
But the Asian cruise industry is a long way behind Europe or North America, the latter of which accounts for around 60 percent of the global cruising market according to industry figures.
Aw Kah Peng, CEO of the Singapore Tourism Board, told media she hopes that will change with the opening of the city’s new cruise terminal, located between downtown Singapore and Sentosa Island.
“We think there’s a lot of untapped potential in cruising,” she says.
“Southeast Asia as a whole region is really interesting for cruising because of the many islands that form the archipelago of Indonesia, as well as Philippines and the long wonderful coastlines of our neighbours like Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.
“We think that Southeast Asia can be the next Mediterranean when it comes to cruising.”
So can the wonders of Southeast Asia — i.e. Angkor Wat or the beaches of the Philippines — compete with the likes of ancient Greek ruins, Alaskan glaciers, Carribean islands and French cafes?
No. At least not when it comes to crusing, say experts.
Infrastructure holding Southeast Asia back
Among the big brands being targeted by Singapore’s new ICT is Royal Carribean. When the ICT opens in mid-2012 — no official date has been announced yet — it will be big enough to facilitate Royal Carribean’s Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world with a passenger capacity of over 6,000.
But don’t expect to see Oasis sailing into Singapore any time soon.
“Cruising is a regional product and cruise lines look at the Southeast Asian region as a whole for business planning, not just based on one port,” says Jennifer Yap, managing director of Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia) Pte Ltd.
“To cater for Oasis, we will need ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] to come together to ensure that each country has one or more ports that is Oasis-friendly. They need to have terminals and piers that allow ships of Oasis’ size to dock and for the guests to disembark the ship smoothly, and not with tendering boats.
“So every ASEAN country will need to step up their infrastructure development to handle our large ships, so cruise lines can design and operate attractive itineraries in the region.”
Until that happens, cruisers will have to make do with ships like Royal Carribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, which holds about 3,800 passengers. The ship will arrive via Dubai in May and is equipped with a rock-climbing wall,basketball court, ice-skating rink and mini-golf course.
“The new International Cruise Terminal has enabled us to deploy our larger ships to Singapore namely Voyager of the Seas, Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Millennium this year, all three from above 90,000 GRT [gross register tonnage] to 138,000 GRT,” says Yap.
“This brings the total number of our ships calling at Singapore to seven, compared to only two last year. We are calling at new interesting itineraries on these ships such as one to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as another to Bali and Australia.”
Karla Cripps is the Southeast Asia editor of CNNGo.com.