Shanghai: The 47,700 gt Pacific Sun was bought by the HNA Group from P&O Cruises last year. Built in 1986, the ship was Carnival’s Jubilee before repositioning to Australia where she made her maiden cruise from Sydney in 2004.
HNA owns transport giants such as Hainan Airlines and Grand China Logistics. Expanding its remit in a bid to build a complete tourism industry chain, the group launched HNA Tourism Cruise and Yacht Management last year and installed Zhang Hao as president.
The Pacific Sun went to Singapore where it was refitted and on January 26 it made its historic maiden voyage under its new name, Henna, on a route from Hainan to Vietnam, calling Sanya, Halong Bay and Danang. In the summer season, Henna will switch homeports to Tianjin from May and operate routes to Korean destinations including Incheon, Jeju Island and Yeosu.
“We are committed to building an outstanding Chinese cruise brand and promoting the development of China’ s cruise industry, this is our ambition,” Zhang tells Maritime CEO.
The cruise industry is still very much in its infancy in China, admits Zhang.
“Currently, the cruise market in China is monopolised by foreign cruise companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean,” Zhang says. “Chinese people only started to know the concept of cruise voyaging since 2006 when these companies first entered the China market.”
While acknowledging these international brands have laid a “good market foundation” for cruising in China, Zhang is keen to point out what he hopes will set his company apart from the competition.
“As the first cruise company in China,” Zhang says, “apart from the advantage of first, we are focusing more on customising the cruise product and our whole service system for Chinese people according to their consuming habits.”
In a poll carried out by our sister publication SinoShip last year 78.3% of respondents said international cruiselines have so far failed to properly cater for Chinese holidaymakers’ tastes and needs.
Another bonus Zhang sees is the vast breadth of the HNA Group with its involvement in ocean, land and air transportation. “We will use this advantage in cross-marketing the three sectors and enriching our service and portfolio.”
Demographically, with the Chinese getting ever richer, the market is getting naturally bigger, but also prices should become more competitive.
“Cruise tourism belongs to a relatively high-end market, but I think it is gradually becoming more common place,” Zhang says. “Once the competition intensifies, prices will come down, allowing more tourists to choose a cruise.” [07/03/13]