Chinese customers change global tourism: Example Cruise Shipping

Many tourism service providers in past years hoped that the Chinese customers would change their demands and behaviour to the “normal” (meaning: Western) way. They had to learn that the opposite is happening: The Chinese are defining the “new normal” in global tourism. The short, but stormy development of Chinese cruise shipping provides a good example for this development.

“Royal Caribbean hopes its new super-ship Quantum of the Seas will teach the Chinese to cruise” read the headline of an online article in May 2014. A year earlier in 2013, a widely-read report in the Financial Times reported about an Easter cruise to Vietnam aboard China’s first ocean liner, the MS Henna, an old former Carnival Cruise Lines ship. Food was served on plastic plates and the apparel of the passengers during the Captain’s dinner showed variations from pyjamas to ball gowns. The general secretary of a “China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association” announced plans to launch a crash course in the finer points of cruise etiquette.

Fast forward four years and you find that the Chinese have taught the Cruise industry what they want: The new Norwegian Joy, which just entered service in China, has a completely customised layout with, according to the company, “onboard amenities that cater to the unique vacation desires of Chinese guests, offering superior customisation for the culture and preferences of Chinese guests”.

The desire for hierarchy is realised with three levels of VVVIP, VIP and normal luxury, with even a separate VVVIP casino and a separate observation deck provided for the occupants of the 74 suites in “The Haven”, concierge service for the VIPs and cabins for five to six passengers instead of the usual two-person shoeboxes on the other decks. The biggest ever shopping area, several casinos, bow to stern Wi-Fi connectivity and a wide variety of virtual reality games, hovercraft bumper cars and a racecourse delegate the ocean to a second-level attraction. Cruises last only three or four nights, and the evening show programme is cut to half an hour, as so much else has to be tried out during the short trip.

For the Woochies (Wealthy Older Chinese), who might look for a little less rinao (hot and noisy) atmosphere, the top deck features a tranquil open space park with greenery and lounge chairs.

To find a meal of burger and fries was difficult, observed a reporter of the Miami Herald on another recent ex-Hong Kong cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas, but congee and its side dishes were spread out over an entire station.

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt

The COTRI Weekly, 8 August 2017, 15:11



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