Major cruise Chinese travelers are the middle-aged and women. Summer and National Day vacations are peak periods for cruise tourism; the top cruise tourism origins are Shanghai and Beijing.
After recent years of market development, Chinese cruise travel market is showing astronomical growth, making China the largest cruise travel market in Asia.
Major customers for cruise travel are the middle-aged and women. Family trips are in strong demand.
With comfortable settings, more activities for entertainment and relaxation and no travel fatigue, outbound travel by cruise is certainly an obvious choice for the middle-aged who have the luxury of time to see the world.
The largest customer segment of cruise tourism in China are those between 30 and 59 years old, accounting for 49% of all cruise travelers, followed by the 60-and-above (27%). In these two age groups, those who are between 35-40 years old and above 65 years old are major consumers for cruise travel.
In terms of gender, there are more female cruise travelers than males in China. In the age group of 30-59 years old, for example, female travelers constitute 31% while males only make up 18%.
Categorizing by traveling companions, family trips claim the lion’s share at 41% of all cruise travel orders. This is due to the recent rise of traveling with children, which sees more and more families consider cruise travel an option for family retreat. Group travel by the silver-haired is also an important customer group, which accounts for 20% of total orders.
Family trips are concentrated during summer and National Day vacations. Entertainment and food are top factors.
Considering children have longer vacation during summer and national day holidays, families often schedule their cruise trips to these two periods. August is when most trips take place during the summer vacation.
Group or non-group travels by the silver-haired have more leeway to plan when to board on their cruises and they usually avoid the summer peak. Group travel by young people and couples’ trips tend to happen during National Day vacation. Traveling with BFFs can take place all year round and is impulsive.
Family travelers prefer sea-view suites and suites with balcony as parents want to provide the highest level of comfort for their children. Not surprisingly, family travelers have higher spending per person than other types of travelers.
Many travelers have grown out of the mindset that cruise travel is about getting the traveler to a destination. Instead, they pay more attention to the activities onboard, including performances as well as food. They are willing to “travel on the cruise itself”. Many cruise travel providers begin to accentuate Chinese elements to cater to Chinese appetites.
As for off-board shopping, Chinese cruise travelers spend the largest amount of cosmetics – as high as 64% of total spending on goods. The second largest spending is on jewelry and watches, which accounts for another 13%.
One month advanced booking is the most popular; more than 80% of customers travel for 4 to 6 days.
Tuniu’s data shows that 34% of customers booked cruise trips by 16 to 30 days in advance last year. Thanks to easier visa applications, 24% of customers chose to book 8 to 15 days in advance.
11% of short-journey cruise customers made last minute decision and booked their cruise less than a week before departure. 19% of customers booked 31 to 60 days well in advance for ample preparation. For ocean cruise travelers, depending on the travel distance and process time for visa application, they prefer to book 61 to 90 days (8%) or more than 90 days in advance (4%).
In 2016, 59% of consumers went for 5-days-4-nights cruise lines, and 22% for 6-days-5-nights lines. At present, China’s cruise travel mostly comprises of offshore short-range trips to Japan.
Trips to Japan and Southeast Asia are mostly consumers by family travelers. Cruises to Middle East, Europe, Americas and the Poles are mostly silver-hair group travelers as well as couples. Among these lines, the major client group for cruise lines that are priced at above 40,000 yuan is those aged between 50 to 65 years old. This indirectly points out that silver-haired customers have both the money and the time to fully exploit the joys of cruise travel.
Most cruise travelers are from Beijing and Shanghai. First choice cruise is Quantum of the Seas.
According to China Cruise & Yacht Industry Association, Chinese outbound cruise travelers totaled 2.1226 million in 2016, the first time in history exceeding 2 million with an increase of 91% from last year.
The top 10 cities by the number of customers traveling by cruises to Japan are Shanghai, Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Suzhou, Wuxi, Ningbo, and Chengdu. As for ocean route cruises, top ten origins are Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Wuhan, Fuzhou, and Tianjin. Shanghai and Beijing travelers are both fervent supporters for short journey and long journey cruises.
Tour-guided cruise customers like to come back for cruises
In 2016, for customers with cruise tour experience, repurchase rate is more than 60%, indicating cruise trips have strong user engagement.
In addition, as the number of repurchase increases, time to order becomes significantly shortened. Those who became cruise travel customers from guided tours take about a year to order while those who have traveled on cruises before take about half as much time.
The growth of high-end cruises travel accelerates; “Cruise+” and destinations will diversify.
High-end cruise travel will grow even faster in China. Chinese cruise travel industry is booming, attracting several international cruise companies to line out strategies targeting the Chinese market in 2017.
In January 2017, Silverseas Cruises’s Silver Shadow has set course for its virgin trip from its home port in Taiziwan, Sekou, Shenzhen. Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises have announced their premium cruises tailored to the Chinese market – Norwegian Joy and Majestic Princess respectively. International players are one after the other investing more and more in the Chinese market, offering a greater range of choices for Chinese consumers.
“Cruise+” offerings are becoming more diversified. So far, Shanghai, Tianjin, Qingdao, Dalian, Xiamen, Sanya, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and a couple of other cities have opened up home ports routes for cruises.
For destinations relatively far from home ports, Tuniu offered a couple of options to tackle feeder transport problem, such as “Cruise + Shuttle”, “Cruise + High-Speed Rail”, “Cruise + Airlines”. This allows inclusion of more cities to be accessible to cruise travel and customers do like the idea. In 2017, Tuniu will further elevate the diversity of its “Cruise+” products and make cruise travel more suited to customers’ travel demand.
There will be greater diversity in terms of cruise travel destinations as well. The market has long been saturated with homogenous Japanese locations. As Southern China cruise market matures, Southeast Asia destinations will gain traction.
Taking a cruise trip to Singapore, Vietnam or Thailand will be a very different and refreshing holiday option for Chinese travelers. As traveling to North and South Poles begin to heat up, more travelers are spending their vacation with polar bears, seals, seafowls and penguins.
The number of Chinese cruise travelers has grown by 10 times in the past five years to over 2 million in 2016 from 200,000 five years ago according to CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association).
China is now the world’s eighth-largest cruise market; the number of Chinese cruise travelers is expected to reach 4.5 million by 2020. Compared to 11 million annual cruise passengers in the United States, the Chinese market is clearly still in the development stage.
Including the Royal Caribbean and Carnival, the world’s leading cruise companies have taken allocated a large number of luxury cruise ships to the Chinese seaside, expecting to seize the shares from this fast-growing market.