The construction of the new Royal Caribbean super ship, “Spectrum of the Seas,” has begun in Papenburg, Germany. This is part of Royal Caribbean’s hopes to open up the Chinese market to luxury cruise experiences by offering “cutting-edge” experiences and amenities.
There is little word yet on the particulars of the new ship’s features, but this well-publicized announcement signals that Royal Caribbean is still very much focused on the Chinese cruise market, which has experienced some instability this year with the South Korean “travel ban” in the wake of the THAAD dispute. The confusion and tumult created a temporary drop in demand for Royal Caribbean’s China cruise offerings.
In response to a diplomatic row between American ally, South Korea, the US, and China, Royal Caribbean temporarily removed South Korean destinations from its China itineraries, replacing them with Japanese ports like Nagasaki and Kumamoto. Next year, some Royal Caribbean itineraries will include Japanese ports like Fukuoka and Naha.
Korea’s Jeju island, a popular destination for Chinese tourists because of its lax visa policy, is available as stop on a single itinerary departing from Shanghai in mid-November. However, this itinerary is unavailable on the Chinese version of the Royal Caribbean site.
Nonetheless, while it illustrates Royal Caribbean’s long-term interest in the Chinese market, it is a market that is subject to dramatic flux in the event of diplomatic and political conflicts between China and its neighbors. With the continued rise of China economically and its willingness to exercise its ability to project both political and economic power, such conflicts between China and American allies will continue. This necessitates flexibility and responsiveness on the part of firms catering to Chinese tourists.
When Royal Caribbean announced its intent to increase its Asia Pacific efforts with the creation of tour packages and the building of ships, docked in Chinese ports to cater to luxury-oriented Chinese consumers, it was considered by some to be a gamble. No doubt challenges in China remain for Royal Caribbean but the construction of the “Spectrum of the Seas” indicates that the firm is very optimistic about the long-term prospects of the cruise industry in China and its popularity among wealthy Chinese consumers.