We had a chance to speak with representatives from the Hong Kong Tourism Board and WorldWide Cruise Terminal (WCT)—operators for Hong Kong’s new cruise terminal—at Cruise Shipping Miami 2012 this month. The topic of conversation was the debut of the cruise terminal at Kai Tak, with the first berth set to open in mid-2013. The tourism board has plans to market the terminal as an attraction, rather than simply a terminal, attracting corporate groups for meetings or incentives both on land or out at sea.
The group consisted of:
- Philip W H Yung, Commissioner for Tourism
- Anthony Lau, Executive Director, Hong Kong Tourism Board
- Bill Flora, Director, USA, Hong Kong Tourism Board
- Jeff Bent, Director, Cruise Projects, Worldwide Flight Services
“The new cruise terminal at Kai Tak is a major initiative in Hong Kong’s endeavor to become a regional cruise operator in Asia and the Pacific,” says Commissioner Yung. “The new terminal will be easily accessible from anywhere in Hong Kong. Even if we have a group staying in a hotel that’s not near the terminal, it’s still very easy for them to go to the terminal and have an event there.”
The terminal will feature a 30,000-sf rooftop garden where groups can host events with panoramic views of the harbor. Or reward your group onboard one of the cruise ships leaving from the new terminal and explore exotic itineraries, ideal for your top incentive winners.
Can you give us some background on the new cruise terminal?
Yung: The new cruise terminal at Kai Tak is a major initiative in Hong Kong’s endeavor to become a regional cruise operator in Asia and the Pacific. Our plan is to have the terminal building and the first berth to open in the middle of next year. In about 15 months’ time, we’ll have this stage of the terminal up and running.
The new terminal will have two berths. The second will open a year after the first. Construction of the cruise terminal so far has been proceeding very smoothly. We are working hard on the construction front to open on time.
A second very important aspect of the terminal is to have a really good operator. People in the government don’t know a thing about opening a cruise terminal so we have to rely on outside expertise. Just last week we formally appointed Worldwide Cruise Terminal’s consortium to be the operator. This team is made up of three companies. The first company and major shareholder is Worldwide Flight Services, which has been providing excellent services in airports around the world. Their partners in this consortium are RCCL, which is the second largest cruise company in the world, and the third is a local company. These three shareholders together will form a very strong team.
A third element of our work is how we can best market and promote the terminal as not just a terminal, but as one of the many attractions in Hong Kong.
With Royal Caribbean as your partners, is this the only cruise line that will be operating out of the terminal?
Yung: No. It’s an open facility. RCCL is part of the operations but that is not to say that they will be the only cruise line allowed to use it.
Are there any specific facilities at the port that you can cite as unique?
Bent: This facility in itself is an architectural masterpiece of Sir Norman Foster. It will be in the middle of Victoria Harbor, with sweeping panoramic views of the entire skyline. It will have a beautiful rooftop garden, so really the potential of having beautiful events up there is tremendous. This is not a new business for us. We also run the private jet terminal at the airport in Singapore and have events there on a monthly basis. We have product launches and special events of that nature. We’re more than happy to continue working with our existing partners.
On top of that, our minority partner, among its various holdings, does have a MICE organizer. This is in addition to their travel agency branch. They have some MICE facilities in Macau so we will also leverage off their customer base and expertise. We hope to make full use of those 30,000 sf of terminal space for all kinds of events. There are catering facilities specifically for these kinds of large groups and events. I think it will be an amazing dynamic waterfront location.
Lau: Hong Kong has seven million people in a high-income base. In the North, in mainland China you have a consumer base of close to a half-million people, all also with very high income. There’s great potential in terms of a consumer base for the cruise company to develop their business.
In the area of conventions we are very happy to have the cruise terminal that’s available as a place that we can propose to meeting organizers for events. Hong Kong has numerous event and exhibition venues. This will be yet another addition to our inventory. It’s a spectacular building, and the meeting spaces and catering flexibility are all there. We also have plenty of parking, which is another big thing in Hong Kong.
Eventually the whole Kai Tak area will be developed into a spectacular commercial and residential area. In terms of our convention business we are doing extremely well. Four years ago we set up a specialized MICE department called ME Hong Kong. Our MICE business has grown considerably since we established that department.
What makes Hong Kong a good destination for MICE business?
Lau: ME Hong Kong is a one-stop shop that helps different source markets from around the world. If there is a convention and they’d like to come to Hong Kong, we facilitate the process of organizing the pre- and post-event trips. We provide information about hotels and work with the hotels to offer better rates. I think we are gaining traction in markets like the U.S.
Other than that, Hong Kong is the perfect location for MICE events. When it comes to meetings and incentives, Hong Kong has it all. Every moment is a different world. You turn around and you see different things. It fits the needs of everyone. Ladies like the shopping and guys like to go to the bars. We have it all. Let me tell you why Hong Kong is great for each market:
One thing that makes Hong Kong perfect for meetings and incentives is the connectivity. We have 900 flights connecting to different parts of the world; we’re a safe country and we are visa-free to 170 countries. You can go grab drinks after your meeting and even if it’s 3 a.m. you are safe to walk back to your hotel room.
In terms of conventions, a lot of convention organizers would like to tie into Hong Kong expertise in terms of understanding the Chinese markets. We have a couple of big conventions coming to Hong Kong purely because of the China market. I think I saw today that there are 96 airports being built in China. Groups want to find out more and know where the opportunities are.
One of Hong Kong’s strengths is exhibitions because Hong Kong is the door to China, and merchants from China like to do business in Hong Kong and meet people from overseas in Hong Kong. Overseas people also like meeting their Chinese counterpart, and if they see something that they like then it’s easy to just head north and see the samples and place your orders.
So we’re doing quite well. On average our compound annual growth for the MICE segment is 10 to 12 percent. Hopefully the cruise terminal will be another product that we offer and it’ll be one more exciting location for us. We see big potential in our market for MICE cruises.