▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
Surrounded by the clean ocean, Jeju Island has infinite possibilities for the growth of marine industry. Traditionally the sea has been considered only a place for harvesting produce, though recently, more people are paying attention to its potential for marine industry development. This change of perspective has brought about political and economic support from the Jeju provincial government, separate from private-sector investment.
Aaron Wu, a ship manager and pro-ject consultant for Oriental Dragon Cruise, explains that while the cruise industry is not a new business sector in China, it is still just at the beginning stage with lots of opportunities for further development.
At Jeju’s Port No. 7 on June 1, the Dragon’s first port entry to Jeju Island was greeted with a welcoming ceremony as the nine-story Oriental Drag-on cruise ship was filled with reporters and invited guests. These included Kim Boo-il, Jeju’s vice governor; Park Young Soo, the president of Jeju Tourism Organization; a delegation of Jeju residents and 50 Chinese VIPs from the cruise industry.
Following the gift exchange ceremony between the cruise liner officials and representatives of the Jeju provincial government and a short introduction to the cruise, guests were entertained at a luncheon and could freely look around the ship while Korean, Chinese and English-speaking interpreters were strategically placed inside.
When the English and Chinese Jeju Weekly reporters arrived and asked for an interview, Wu volunteered first, followed by Jenkin Luk, 32, the CEO of Capital Dragon Global (HK) Limited, the full name of the Oriental Dragon cruise company.
They explained how they started their business, saying a few like-minded friends of ethnic Chinese investors from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Macao and Wenzhou reached an agreement that the cruise industry was soon to develop fast in China and other Asian countries. The ship’s name, Oriental Dragon, reflects their romantic sensitivity, however, this hardly belies the business acumen behind the cruise ship enterprise owners.
They point out that quality service is guaranteed by the nearly equal ratio of crew to passengers, about 450 and at most 500. The round-trip fare is around 4,000 RMB (approx. US$620), almost the same as the flight fare, but it includes meals and accommodation during the trip. The cruise company also encourages on-board activities, providing separate spaces for drinking, karaoke, dancing, a swimming pool with barbecue facilities, and a casino. They boast of a diverse nationality of crew members from China, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Ukraine. This is necessary because their passengers speak all or part of Mandarin, Cantonese and English.
▲ Jenkin Luk, CEO of Capital Dragon Global. Photo by Kim Soo Yang
Currently, the Oriental Dragon runs exclusively between Shanghai and Jeju with a 26-hour one-way traveling time. Jeju is well positioned as a destination because of its policy of no visa requirement for Chinese tourists. Added to this is the attractiveness of the island due to its clean and beautiful environment. Wu didn’t hide his company’s ambition to expand its service in the future to Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and said that they plan to sign an MOU for an additional route with Yeosu City, Korea, when International Exposition Yeosu Korea 2012 is held next year. Moreover, they hope their current passenger demographic, which is almost exclusively Chinese, will also include Koreans and expand to other Asian countries.
Last year 55,243 tourists visited the island in 49 trips from seven cruise lines, with Chinese tourists accounting for 73 percent of travelers. This year eight cruise lines are scheduled to arrive an estimated 80 times, including 23 from the Oriental Dragon cruise for June to August with an expected 12,000 tourists. Jeju government officials plan to attract more international cruises to the island and become an international cruise hub in Far Eastern Asia.
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