Creating new opportunities for Taiwan’s cruise industry

  • Date: 2017-03-10

I. Background

The cruise industry has a reputation as a “gold mine” because of its ability to bring in tourism dollars and create business for port operations, vessel maintenance, crew services and other logistics industries. So as part of Taiwan’s efforts to diversify its tourist clientele and expand globally, the nation is aggressively tapping emerging markets while making deeper inroads into the mature markets of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and Canada. The government hopes to make cruises an integral part of Taiwan’s tourism portfolio, and firm up links with peripheral industries to boost the domestic economy and create job opportunities.


Nestled at the crossroads of Northeast and Southeast Asia, Taiwan is blessed with an abundance of cultural and tourism resources that draw cruise ships from many countries. The Taiwanese, meanwhile, are also taking stronger interest in cruise travel since the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and cruise line companies began intensifying marketing campaigns to increase the volume of transit and turnaround calls in Taiwan.


A 2016 report by the Cruise Line International Association points to the sector’s strong growth potential: Taiwan recently became Asia’s second largest source of cruise passengers while the Port of Keelung grew into Asia’s fifth largest port based on total number of calls. By taking advantage of the island’s proximity to mature Northeast Asian cruise markets in Japan and Korea, and tapping emerging markets in Southeast Asia as part of the government’s New Southbound Policy, Taiwan’s cruise industry can look forward to smooth sailing ahead.


II. Strategies and measures to expand Taiwan’s cruise industry

The MOTC is implementing a number of strategies and measures to unlock the industry’s considerable potential:

A. Intensify international marketing:
This includes promoting Taiwan’s port resources and tourism attractions at international cruise forums and events such as Cruise Shipping Miami, the industry’s largest annual marketing event. The MOTC will also partner with global publications including the Seatrade Cruise Review and the Kaiji Press to raise the international visibility of Taiwan’s ports.

B. Promote cruise travel:
In August 2016 the MOTC, working with local governments, released a promotional video on cruise travel for broadcast on the Kaohsiung metro, Taiwan’s railways and cable television networks. The video can also be seen at other Asian ports such as Naha and Kobe, and on Princess Cruises and major Taiwan-bound cruise liners.

C. Cultivate Taiwanese source market:
The ministry is working with cruise companies to promote travel packages departing from domestic ports. Star Cruises and Princess Cruises, for instance, will offer promotional packages when they launch home port sailings from Kaohsiung in 2017, making cruise travel more attractive.

D. Develop “fly-cruise” packages:
To attract more visitors to Taiwan, the ministry is promoting flexible fly-cruise packages that combine flights and cruises into and out of Taiwan. In March 2017, the MOTC began offering a special berthing deal to foreign vessels as another means of marketing Taiwan’s cruise operations. MOTC and cruise company representatives also visited Japan and Southeast Asia to promote cruise packages to Taiwan, and the administrative agencies of domestic ports and airports have formed a sea-air alliance task force to build a tourist-friendly environment by improving facilities and services, and fast-tracking customs and tax refund procedures.

E. Provide comprehensive transportation services:
The MOTC has teamed up with local authorities to provide free two-day metro passes, plan comprehensive airport/city/harbor itineraries, offer discount packages exclusively for cruise tourists, and promote fly-cruise vacation tours between Taiwanese cities and their sister cities abroad.

F. Develop dual home ports of Keelung and Kaohsiung:
The government hopes to replicate the growth model of the northern Port of Keelung at the Port of Kaohsiung in the south to make it another home port for Taiwan. Eying the region’s lucrative market, international cruise companies have begun operating more vessels out of Kaohsiung. Star Cruises, owned by the Genting Group, began offering a Hong Kong-Kaohsiung-Laoag (Philippines) itinerary aboard the SuperStar Virgo in March 2017. Princess Cruises plans to add Kaohsiung to its list of destinations when the Sapphire Princess sets sail on a Kaohsiung-Hong Kong-Ha Long Bay (Vietnam) route in October 2017. Altogether, the number of cruise calls to the Port of Kaohsiung is expected to leap from 24 in 2016 to 86 in 2017.

G. Strengthen regional cooperation:
The MOTC will continue promoting the Asia Cruise Cooperation, an alliance formed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Hainan and Xiamen to expand the cruise market in Asia. The alliance also encourages cruise lines to include the five destinations in their itineraries.

H. Streamline visa procedures:
Beginning January 1, 2017, the Ministry of the Interior eased visa requirements for Hong Kong and Macau residents coming to Taiwan for cruise travel. With one online application, visitors can obtain two visas granting two entries, making the application process faster and more convenient.


III. 2017 targets

To seize opportunities in the growing cruise industry, the MOTC has set the following targets for 2017:

A. Push industry production value to NT$5 billion (US$161.8 million):
The production value for Taiwan’s cruise industry is expected to grow 25 percent in 2017 from the previous year thanks to an abundance of commercial opportunities.

B. Increase the number of port calls and passenger volume by 30 percent each:
For 2017, the MOTC estimates that cruise ships will make over 600 calls to Taiwan’s ports and bring over 1 million passengers.

C. Grow the number of fly-cruise travelers by 25 percent:
The MOTC aims to increase the number of foreign visitors flying into Taiwan for cruises from 20,000 in 2016 to 25,000 in 2017.

D. Increase Taiwan-supplied cruise goods to 40 percent:
Princess Cruises, owned by the world’s biggest cruise operator, Carnival Corp., has significantly increased home port sailings from Taiwan and will require an estimated 10 to 12 shipping containers of food and goods weekly. Taiwan’s goal for 2017 is to supply 25 to 40 percent of the US$300,000 worth of supplies purchased by the company each week.


IV. Conclusion

Taiwan has seen rising numbers of cruise ships and passengers in the past few years. As evidence of the economic potential of Taiwan’s port operations, the number of arriving cruises continues to grow in 2016 and 2017, outpacing growth in Singapore and Japan. The industry will continue to strengthen promotional strategies as it moves forward while planning more attractive onshore itineraries for passengers. Government agencies, local authorities and travel operators will also team up to raise the industry’s production value and make the Taiwan brand even more competitive.