Travel Travel

24/11/2022 - 07:27

Restarting cruise travel

After nearly 3 years, the first cruise ship has just returned to Hue, and cruise travel is expected to recover better from 2023.

Cruise travel being forecasted to make a good recovery in the near future. Photo by: Nguyen Phong

The first cruise ship to dock after nearly 3 years

From February, 2020 when the last cruise ship docked at Chan May port, all had to stop because of the pandemic. In October, 2022, after 2 years and 8 months, Chan May port welcomed the return of the first cruise ship. Since Vietnam fully reopened borders for tourism in March, 2022, cruise travel has been one of the markets that recovers slowly as compared to other traditional ones of Hue.

The first cruise ship to Hue was the 5-star Le Lapérouse of the famous Ponant shipping company hold the nationality of Wallis & Futuna. The ship carried nearly 100 international tourists, mainly from European and American markets, to the Ancient Capital of Vietnam.

Traveling to Hue, many tourists said that they would have had a cruise trip to Vietnam in general and Hue in particular since mid-2020 unless there was pandemic. Upon their arrivals in Hue, they were extremely impressed with the monuments, pagodas, mausoleums, and especially the Citadel. When arriving in Hue, they were also very impressed when they were warmly welcomed by those wearing long dresses and conical hats despite the heavy rain. Many tourists claim that they will return to Hue as soon as possible, either by means of cruise ship or another form of transportation. 

According to Mr. Huynh Van Toan, General Director of Chan May Port Joint Stock Company, the port had welcomed 3 consecutive cruise ships to dock in October and early November, 2022. Chan May is a complex port, both for cruise ships and cargo ones. Currently, the 2nd wharf has been put into operation  in addition to the 1st wharf, so the port has basically completed the facilities to be able to welcome ships back with the best services.

By the end of this year and especially from 2023, the frequency of cruise ships to Chan May port will increase as time flies. It is likely that around the end of 2023, cruise travel will make a strong recovery as compared to that in 2019.

A group of cruise ship passengers arriving in Hue early November, 2022

Being equally happy when the cruise ship passengers return is the tour guides specializing in serving this line of customers. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Do, a tour guide, shared that returning to Chan May port to serve customers after more than 3 years is an emotion as fresh as the his first time taking on a cruise ship customer service. Travel agencies have announced that cruise travel seems very prosperous and 2023 will be a “boom” period again. This makes the tour guides specializing in serving cruise ship passengers very excited. 

According to Mr. Nguyen Van Phuc, Director of the Department of Tourism, although the number is still small, the fact that the cruise ship has docked at Chan May port and brought tourists to Thua Thien Hue again is a positive sign for the recovery of tourism; restarting international cruise ship operations to Chan May port. For a long time, cruise ship passengers have accounted for a significant proportion, bringing a great source of revenue to the ancient capital’s tourism industry. Therefore, the tourism sectors must be proactive in taking solutions to welcome and serve these tourists better. 

Mixed feelings

According to Mr. Huynh Van Toan, Chan May is the destination of many major shipping lines in the world, such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Tui Cruises, Costa Criere, Viking Ocean Cruises, Small Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, etc. Especially, the world's largest super cruise named Ovation of the Seas has once arrived at Chan May port.

To make good preparations for welcoming major shipping lines, the port has also developed a new plan to divert and arrange a suitable docking schedule, giving priority to cruise ships. The port also has a plan to arrange suitable parking lots in order to create favorable conditions when the port now has new wharfs and operates container ships.

Mr. Nguyen Van Phuc emphasized that the industry would actively coordinate with Chan May port, travel agencies specializing in the exploitation of cruise ship passengers to introduce and promote Hue’s destinations, historical works and architectures, landscapes, culture and cuisine, etc., to affirm that Hue was ready to welcome cruise ship passengers with the best services and plans.

Along with that, it is necessary to coordinate with tourist attractions and service businesses in the area to organize tours for cruise ship passengers to take and use services when disembarking. The surroundings of stopovers for these tourists should be more focused, and service quality must be more concerned when serving those having a lot of experience and high requirements since these are high-spending customers.

According to the recently-released analysis of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), cruise travel has a revenue value of about 40% higher than air or road travel. This is also the reason why cruise travel is favored and fully exploited by developed countries around the world. The organization also forecasts a better recovery of cruise travel in 2023.

That is a good sign for the market of cruise ship passengers, but there still remains some concerns. A representative of a travel company that has just brought 3 cruise ships to Chan May port said that the demand is there, but it is currently still quite low. Through the  marketing process, it is found that the price of the tour is still the dominant factor even though customers are luxury ones. Take the previous cruise ships as an example. Each cruise ship brought from 80 to 100 passengers, as compared to thousands of passengers of the previous large cruise ships. Chances are that when the world economy recovers better, the demand for cruise travel will return to the normal state as before. 

The first cruise ships recently returning to Vietnam shows that this form of travel becomes quite different from before. Cruise ship passengers now have diverse choices. They do not just stay onboard, stop at certain stopovers to disembark for visiting, and then return to the cruise ship as before. Now there is a change as customers can choose more flexible means of transportation, including ships, planes, and cars. They can go by stages to save money and have more experiences. Therefore, this is also a factor that travel agencies need to consider to make more flexible changes in service exploitation

Story and photos: Duc Quang

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