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The cruise industry is still quite small in China, even with international cruise firms building state-of-the-art new ships specifically tailored for the Chinese market. It’s not clear if the industry will continue to develop quickly considering that some analysts have predicted that capacity in the Chinese market will be cut substantially in 2018.
Nonetheless, the Chinese government is still operating under the assumption that the cruise industry in China will be a force to be reckoned with and will announce plans next month to both encourage industry growth while at the same time maintaining control over it for the industry’s “health.”
The China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association (CCYIA), along with vocal support from the China National Tourism Association (CNTA), will unveil plans to establish more cruise tourism hubs in China at its annual China Cruise Shipping Conference International & Cruise Expo in Sanya.
These new “tourism towns” in China are a continuation of the “cruise tourism development pilot areas” that were launched in 2014.
It’s important to note that without an official announcement with the details of the plan, it’s hard to understand its purpose going forward. CNTA’s deputy director Li Shihong said the plan was necessary for the healthy development of the cruise industry.
This language is reminiscent of past calls by Chinese authorities to crack down on VPNs, which circumvent the “Great Firewall” to access blocked content on the internet in China. Plans to ban or restrict VPN use have cited the need for “safety” and the “healthy development” of the internet in China.
It’s clear that any new plans by the Chinese government to encourage the development of the cruise industry will include efforts to regulate and control it, which may be to the detriment of international cruise companies hoping to tap into the substantial potential of the Chinese market.
The cruise industry in China is still very much dominated by international operators like Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line. However, Chinese companies have begun building their own large cruise ships and may start to compete with foreign firms in earnest within the next few years.
Regulations of large industries in China have in the past benefitted large domestic companies like Tencent or Alibaba. If the Chinese government feels the cruise industry is too large and out of state control, it may attempt to reign in foreign firms and boost the competitiveness of domestic operators. Of course, at this time, all of this is speculation and hinges on whether or not cruises will prove attractive to Chinese consumers over the long-term.
This story originally appeared on Jing Travel, a Skift content partner.
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