While Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal is a popular homeport for a number of cruise liners, the incentive business lags far behind the vacation business in the sector's market share.
That is expected and not exactly bad news for the cruise brands. “[In terms of] branding all you see out there is family vacation," Crystal Campbell, managing director of Royal Caribbean International Hong Kong, tells CEI. "That’s where your mind goes first when you think about Royal Caribbean cruise. It’s absolutely what we want.”
MICE is never going to contribute a huge percentage to RC’s overall business, Campbell contends. However, she adds that its higher yields and scale are good reasons for the brand to grow this aspect of the business in Hong Kong.
Campbell has an affinity for the MICE sector, stemming from her previous portfolio overseeing the international MICE business at RC’s headquarters in Miami prior to her move to Hong Kong in October last year. “We would like to get 5% of our homeport business in corporate," she says. "That may be a little aggressive this year, [but] that’s where our goal is.”
More importantly, Campbell says she wants to focus on raising awareness for MICE cruises as an option for corporate buyers. The brand participated in a briefing session organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) last month, and the parties also work together at trade shows such as IMEX and IBTM to promote the city as a cruise homeport.
“HKTB provided me with a list of all the events that they attend on a global standpoint, whereas I [also] want to see the smaller events," Campbell says. "We have people in these events, whether it be in US or Europe, to talk about Hong Kong and cruising. That’s where we can leverage our relationship with the tourism board.”
Royal Caribbean uses the same cooperation model with HKTB for its international vacation business, and recently appointed a new person to oversee the MICE business for the local market.
In terms of its regional MICE business, RC enjoys relative success in Singapore and China. The latter already has 5% share from the MICE charter business owing to the market’s scale and high take-up of cruises among direct-selling companies, including Amway and Nu Skin.
Singapore’s popularity, meanwhile, can be attributed to its geographical advantage, Campbell says. The city state’s close proximity to popular cruise destinations within Southeast Asia facilitates shorter trips that can be completed within three to four days.
In comparison, a three-day itinerary from Hong Kong goes to Taiwan. A more popular route to Japan requires at least a five-day itinerary.
“Consumer vacation is mainly driven by destination, [but] for corporate meetings, the length is a component," Campbell says. "It comes down to how many nights we are going rather than the number of ports.”
It also helps that Singapore is a regional business hub, which gives Campbell good reasons to be hopeful about Hong Kong.
“HKTB is doing a great job of trying to bring that same perception," she says. "We too are close to all of your APAC friends, so there’s no reason that the same model that has been working in Singapore for so long can’t work here.”
The Hong Kong team may host a familiarisation trip for planners in the future, although such trips are usually organised by the global team, she says.
“The ROI has been pretty good, but we have to be careful to hand-select, talking to the right people," Campbell adds. "With any fam trip, we have to make sure that people don’t just take advantage of the opportunity, but they have something in mind so it’s going to turn into ROI not only for us but for them.”