The pandemic put a temporary stop to the cruise industry worldwide. After gradually recovering and adapting – with “cruises to nowhere” as its main product whilst borders were still closed – cruise operators have restarted international sailings, including in Southeast Asia. Major international cruise ships have resumed sailings to and from SEA region after two over years of absence due to the pandemic. Governments have also stepped up efforts to develop and promote cruise tourism, as well as improve sea port infrastructure and facilities to accommodate and attract larger cruise ships.
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) expects Singapore’s cruise industry to return to pre-COVID levels in 2023-2024. STB to take over regulation of cruise terminal operations from the MPA, in line with its goal to develop the cruise sector, and remain as the region’s leading cruise hub. Singapore has also developed a 3-year partnership with SilverSea in efforts to develop luxury cruise industry in Singapore. In addition, Singapore and Thailand partner up to establish Cruise Tourism Task Force to develop road map on bilateral initiatives to drive cruise tourism between the two countries.
According to a report by the Department of Commerce of USA, the global cruise industry revenue is set to jump from US$239.1 million in 2022 to US$401.8 million in 2026. Indonesia allocated US$80 million to transfer Benoa Harbour into the Bali Maritime Tourism Hub and construct the Benoa Cruise Terminal. Similarly, Thailand allocated 156.2 million THB to build cruise ship terminals in Pattaya, Krabi and Phuket until 2023, with more funds to be allocated for construction.
Cruise lines like Resorts World Cruises have introduced various facilities to cater their wide variety of audiences such as starting Muslim-friendly cruise sailing from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. According to a survey, quality of food, travel experiences, and hygiene are the top concerns when it comes to choosing a cruise vacation.
With more international cruises sailing to and home-porting in Southeast Asia, not to mention the many ongoing port developments, the region has great potential to be come a powerhouse in the industry. If not properly regulated, the scale of cruise tourism may negatively impact a destination, including water/air pollution and marine degradation, making sustainability a vital point to be considered for further cruise development in the region. Some tech opportunities to explore during the return of cruises in implementing automatic immigration system for smoother onboarding, digital payment system using wristbands/room keys and automation in housekeeping and F&B onboard.