Oct. 1 (Jeju Weekly) Jeju needs to formulate a provincial agenda for the cruise industry to take advantage of the rapidly growing Asian market says an expert in the field. Kim Wook Kyun is president of Aju Incentive Tours, which provides tours throughout Korea to cruise line passengers, serving more than 60 percent of all incoming cruise passengers. Aju Incentive Tours has been in business for about 15 years and its other main focus is as a destination management company.
Kim said that for the past 15 years, there has been continuous growth in the cruise industry globally of about 7 percent per year. “Even though there were some difficult periods like the Gulf War or the oil crisis, they were temporary problems and in the long term there was always growth.”
The industry currently caters to about 20 million passengers each year worldwide, Kim said. Of these, more than 60 percent come from North America, while Europeans are the next largest sector, at around 5 million passengers. South America and Asia each provide about 1 million passengers. However, Kim said, that figure accounts for 3.5 to 3.9 percent penetration of Europe’s residents whereas in Asia it is less than 0.05 percent.
Kim attended the Seatrade All Asia Cruise Convention in Suzhou, near Shanghai, in June, where the huge potential market was discussed. “The consensus was that the market [in Asia] will reach 5 million in 2020,” he said. “The market will in 10 years be bigger than in Europe.”
The future of Jeju tourism should be based on marine tourism, Kim said, and the cruise industry is an important part of that as an extremely fast-growing segment of the tourism business. The key drivers for future growth of the industry would be government support and the required infrastructure to accommodate ships. He said the Chinese government had recently eased cabotage restrictions, which previously allowed foreign-flagged ships to call at only one Chinese port each trip, in order to encourage more passengers to visit there. In Korea, the government has begun dispatching immigration officials to the port prior to a ship’s arrival here so that passengers can be processed while still at sea.
“Most Asian ports are now expanding and constructing new cruise terminals,” he said.
Asian countries need to cooperate to grow the cruise business in the region, Kim said, and individual ports need to collaborate also. “Jeju should promote Busan and other ports also. Our first aim is to bring ships to the region, not to Jeju only. We have to promote the region.”
Currently, the turnaround ports for cruise ships in Northeast Asia, where passengers join and leave cruises, are Hong Kong, Shanghai and Kobe, Kim said. Moving a turnaround port to Busan would have huge value for Korea. “Right now, we just have eight hours [while passengers are in port] but if we have a turnaround port, there will be huge business opportunities created,” he said.
“Busan is better positioned as a turnaround than Jeju because of the population and better transportation access, but if Busan became a turnaround port then Jeju and all other ports would benefit also.”