HONG KONG. Hong Kong’s two major cruise ports handled 1.7 million passengers in 2017, up +4.4% on the previous year. Within that, over 700,000 passengers began and ended their cruise holiday from the Kai Tak or Ocean terminals, a sharp rise of +58% compared to the previous year.

The figures come from travel analyst Air4casts which today launched the first of a series of reports on the global cruise market.

Built on the runway of the former airport, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has become an iconic structure in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.

Air4casts describes Hong Kong’s ‘homeporting’ performance (those that started and ended their cruises there) as “stellar” and adds: “The passenger nationality mix is also very good news for travel retail.”

According to the analyst, over the past ten years, the ‘homeporting’ element has risen sharply. In 2007 just 133,000 passengers were Hong Kong-based and that dropped to 100,000 during the global financial crisis of 2009. However, by 2015 the market had more than trebled to 379,000 and last year it hit 708,000.

Greater Chinese cruisers dominate

Between them, Hong Kong Chinese, Mainland Chinese, Macau and Taiwanese cruisers accounted for 80% of all holidaymakers who started their trip from a Hong Kong cruise terminal last year.

Over half of homeport cruisers lived in Hong Kong and these have more than doubled in number since 2016. Outside the local, Mainland China and Taiwan markets, Americans and Australians made up the balance of the top five nationalities.

Indian cruisers are seeing huge growth

Excluding the Greater Chinese region, Indian cruisers starting their cruise directly out of Hong Kong grew fastest last year. Their numbers soared by +255% to over 12,000.

Japanese cruisers were not far behind in both growth and volume terms while Malaysian cruisers increased by +145% to just under 10,000 and Thai nationals rose by +69%.

Air4casts added: “Homeport cruise numbers for the first quarter of 2018 show no let up in the rapid pace of Indian homeport cruisers. They were up by well over +200% on the same period in 2017.”