The opening of a new cruise terminal in Hong Kong has highlighted the cruise infrastructure advances being made in Asia, as Australia continues to grapple with its own shortfalls.
The US$1 billion Kai Tak Cruise Terminal welcomed its first cruise liner, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas, earlier this week officially opening the new facility and signalling the rising importance of cruising in the region.
On a visit to Sydney, Royal Caribbean president and chief executive Adam Goldstein highlighted the substantial investments being made in cruise infrastructure in Asia as the sector flourishes in the region.
Last year, around one in 10 of the 20 million passengers who took a cruise came from Asia. Experts predict this number will rise steadily to reach 7 million by 2020, with up to two million of these from mainland China.
The new Hong Kong terminal follows on from significant new developments in Shanghai, Tianjin and Singapore.
"All are capable of handling Oasis of the Seas class cruise ships," Goldstein told media. "The mentality of the Chinese and Singaporeans is if we’re going to be building new cruise infrastructure, we want to build it to be able to handle the largest cruise ships that exist and we hope those cruise ships will be here some day."
Meanwhile, he confirmed he will be engaging in talks with government during this visit to discuss Australia's own infrastructure needs.
"We're looking at how can we prod and persuade the government to build the necessary infrastructure to enable the growth of the industry in general and our brands in particular," he said.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Tourism Board regional director Andrew Clarke confirmed Kai Tak will operate with one berth until next year when a second berth will open, dramatically boosting the city's cruise potential.
"The Asia region generally needs to have more of these terminals. These are relatively untapped waters by cruising standards," he told Travel Today.
"We are really looking at it as a collaborative project for the region."
The facility, designed by Foster & Partners and built on the site of the runway of Hong Kong's old Kai Tak Airport, makes good use of an area that had been neglected, Clarke added.
He expects additional infrastructure such as transport links and hotels to appear around the new terminal.
"We see the demand and are being proactive to ensure that we provide the right facilities," he said.
The former cruise terminal will continue to service small and mid-sized ships.