Shanghai offers 1st cruise program

Updated: 2014-04-07 07:42

By Wu Yiyao in Shanghai (China Daily)

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When Marc Mancini first arrived at Shanghai Maritime University, he was impressed by its size.

"Is the campus larger than California?" the adjunct professor of travel at West Los Angeles College asked. Mancini will join staff in Shanghai to teach the world's first cruise-management program.

What impressed him more is how quickly China's cruise market is expanding and companies' determination to evolve in the sector.

"There is much to learn from mature markets," Huang Youfang, president of the Shanghai Maritime University, said at the program's inauguration ceremony. "But we need to explore our own routes."

Shanghai has a proud heritage of shipping, logistics and transport. Now its cruise sector is surging, a sign of a metropolis, Huang said.

The university's program can only help the city's efforts to be an international shipping center, Xiao Yugui, Deputy Secretary at Shanghai Municipal People's Government, said.

Many of the 35 students are cruise-sector veterans with more than a decade of experience at sea. They include officials from shipping authorities, executives, senior managers and heads of travel agencies.

The curriculum at Shanghai includes management practice, theories and characteristics of the Chinese market taught across 20 months of studies.

The cruise industry's significance for China is growing. There are hubs in Shanghai and Tianjin. Professionals and administrators consider it a high-end service business.

China's value as a source market and destination is growing year to year. Ten percent of clients with, the nation's largest online travel agency, bought cruises in 2013, according to company figures.

Still, China has to build up its fleet of liners to meet rising demand. That requires collaboration with people, including those with capital and policy makers, Mancini said.

"To launch the EMBA program is a right thing at a right time," he said. "I am quite positive about the cruise sector's prospects in China."

He added Chinese cruise companies may seek out routes to meet the quickly rising domestic demand and overseas appetite to visit China.

As passenger numbers rise, terminal operations and passenger handling becomes increasingly important, said Xiao at the Shanghai municipal government.

Cruise travel is unique in that it's a vehicle and a destination, leaving it sensitive to changeable weather and needing more detail-focused management and passenger handling. That draws in issues including infrastructure, compliance, finance and social factors.

As the Chinese market expands, yet-to-mature companies and passengers have had some unpleasant experiences from cruise trips.

In April 2013, about 200 disgruntled passengers refused to disembark at the end of five-day trip. They said compensation offered for a canceled visit to South Korea's Jeju Island was inadequate. They stayed on board for nine hours in Shanghai, delaying 2,000 passengers scheduled to leave with the same ship.

"Travel agencies, cruise liners, administrators and all other stakeholders in the cruising sector must collaborate to form a synergy and bring about better market conditions," Xiao, at the Shanghai municipal government, said.

(China Daily 04/07/2014 page9)