Full steam ahead as Genting Hong Kong plans to make cruises the vacation norm

Flights aren't the only option to get out of the city for the holidays and many Hongkongers are currently opting for cruises as a vacation alternative. Christine Li, senior vice president and head of marketing and communications at Genting Hong Kong, a pioneer in the Asian cruise industry, shared with Sharon Kwok how the company is rejuvenating the brand in order to cater to the rising trend of younger generation travellers.

Since the founding of Star Cruises in 1993, Genting Hong Kong has amassed 25 years’ of Asian cruise industry experience. In 2015 - to further expand its cruise portfolio in the region and cater to the fast-growing Asian market - it launched a new luxury cruise line: Dream Cruises. This was followed by the acquisition of Crystal Cruises, extending the company’s reach in the global up-scale market. Together. these three cruise brands are collectively now known as Genting Cruise Lines.

“We are often being asked what is our target customers, but actually we target all walks of life, from kids to the elderly. The major group of our customer is young families, followed by seniors, then young adults,” says Li.

“There is a trend of more young generation customers going abroad our cruises. Dream Cruises is a line that targets the younger generation. We aim to bring new travel experiences to them with innovative products and leisure activities, ranging from spa, gym room, water park, teens club, to a wide variety of food and beverage options.”  

One element of reaching the younger generation is a cross-over marketing strategy with popular and recognisable brands.

For example, Dream Cruises recently collaborated with Pokémon; Detective Pikachu, the first-ever live-action Pokémon movie. From now until 31 August 2019, Detective Pikachu entertainers will make guest appearances aboard the three cruise ships of the Dream fleet; Genting Dream, World Dream, and Explorer Dream. Pokémon fans can also participate in a series of themed interactive programs at sea, such as “Power On” language academies, costume parties, specialty drinks promotions and afternoon tea sets, and arts and crafts workshops.

“We also collaborate with lifestyle brand Marimekko and luxury brand Tiffany," says Li. "Collaborations with different brands and different industries help raise our brand awareness in the market, and recruit the fans of the other brands who might not have known cruises. The collaborations also bring in more diverse activities on the cruises which significantly enhance the customer experience.”

Li said segmentation is another strategy they have adopted, where different campaigns launches are timed for different seasons and target specific audiences. Catering to young families, earlier this year the company launched a life-size version of the world’s best-selling board game - Monopoly - with grand prizes available on Genting Dream and World Dream.  Dream Cruises has also launched its Little Dreamers Program, which is designed exclusively for kids aged 2-12 years old. In collaboration with Silicon Workshop Limited, EVI Services Limited, and Lego Education, a series of STEAM workshops and games are hosted aboard Genting vessels.

Genting is also hitting the bugbear of price hard. The general assumption is that cruise trips are too expensive, dissuading customers from considering them as a vacation choice. Dream Cruise has reacted by launching an affordable luxury cruise trip, the “One Day Greater Bay Cruise” on World Dream. Guests will be able to experience a short affordable taste of cruising within the Greater Bay Area.

Over the past 25 years, Genting Hong Kong has been ambitious to grow Asia-Pacific as an international cruise destination. Genting Cruise Lines accounts for more than 25 million passengers from just its fleet in the Greater Bay Area alone, based around Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Throughout 2018, Genting Cruise Lines’ year-round deployment in the region was responsible for over 1.4 million passengers throughout, of which approximately 30% were from outside the Greater Bay Area.

Li said the company sees the potential of the Greater Bay Area. Looking forward, the company plans to debut its first Global Class ship in 2021. At more than 200,000 tonnes and over 340 metres long, this luxury liner is expected to be one of the largest cruise ships in the world by passenger capacity - accommodating up to 9,000 passengers with 2,500 cabins consisting of a variety of categories.

A highlight of the new ship is its smart technology. A system will allow passengers to control different onboard functions with a smartphone app, voice control or a touchscreen panel. These will include such comfort options for cabins such as LED mood lighting and climate control. Smart sensors will also be able to detect occupants in the cabin to automatically adjust the lights and temperature for better energy efficiency while triple vent air-conditioning outlets will ensure even air distribution.

But though new products and tech investment are important, innovative marketing initiatives are what will drive the future of cruises as an industry. Li pointed out that marketers are facing the challenge of communicating with consumers under the emergence of numerous social media platforms. 

“It is crucial to choose the right platform for our brand, we have individual teams responsible for social communications for Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong respectively. We aim to deliver the relevant message to the right audience, attracting them to our cruises trips.”