Singapore aims to be top fly-cruise hub in Asia

The Marina Bay Cruise Centre, where ground handler Sats is tying up with Singapore Airlines and other carriers to offer check-in facilities for cruise customers with departing flights.
The Marina Bay Cruise Centre, where ground handler Sats is tying up with Singapore Airlines and other carriers to offer check-in facilities for cruise customers with departing flights.ST FILE PHOTO

Local tourism players are stepping up efforts to lure passengers worldwide

From offering direct baggage transfers between Changi Airport and cruise ships to spending millions on marketing efforts, Singapore is aiming to be Asia's premier cruise hub.

The region's cruise tourism market is tipped to grow to 3.8 million passengers by 2020, based on industry projections. Singapore attracted 1.03 million cruise passengers and 391 ships last year, jumps of 13 per cent and 17 per cent respectively from 2012.

Now it wants the lion's share of the Asian market, currently dominated by China, which attracted about 1.4 million cruise passengers last year.

Apart from providing the necessary infrastructure at the cruise terminals at HarbourFront, Tanah Merah and Marina Bay, more will be done to develop the fly-cruise market.

Changi Airport Group and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) are stepping up efforts to lure global cruise players.

They have just sealed a multimillion-dollar deal to bring Princess Cruises, which operates a fleet of 18 ships, to Singapore.

The Sapphire Princess, with cabins for up to 2,670 passengers, will make 16 sailings between November and March, with cruises ranging from three to 17 days.

Ms Alicia Seah, director of marketing communications at Dynasty Travel, which set up a dedicated cruise division last year, said: "Cruise travel is definitely taking off in a big way in Asia with bigger, more grand and more luxurious ships calling."

With a range of activities for young and old, cruises are especially popular with extended families, she said.

About seven out of 10 customers are Singapore residents, she added.

China, India and Indonesia are key target markets for Singapore's cruise industry, according to travel agents.

Changi's air connections to 270 cities worldwide, combined with about 6,600 weekly flights, give Singapore a strategic advantage to effectively tap fly-cruise traffic from across the globe and serve as a cruise hub for Asia, the airport and the STB said.

Sats, Changi's biggest ground handler, also runs the two-year-old Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore and is happy to support with its own initiatives, said its president and chief executive officer Alex Hungate.

These include check-in facilities at Changi for selected travellers who arrive at the airport with confirmed cruise departures.

At the Marina cruise centre, Sats also has tied up with Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and other carriers to offer check-in facilities for cruise customers with departing flights.

More partners will be roped in, Sats said.

Even without a large source market for cruise passengers, Singapore has all it takes to be the premier fly-cruise hub in Asia, including a world-class port that can service giant cruise ships, Mr Hungate believes.

"Because our airport is so good, our base airline is so good and our cruise centre is so good, and because we have all-year temperate climate... it all means that Singapore is actually unique in the Eastern Hemisphere," he said.

"There is no other home port like Singapore that has all of these features."

karam@sph.com.sg