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MSC signs deal with main Chinese tour operator to bring cruises to China

by Rita Fatiguso

The 55-year-old CEO of MSC Crociere, Gianni Onorato, with a good 26 years of experience in the sector, can now finally relax. He signed an agreement with Chen Xiao Bing’s Caissa Touristic, the largest private Chinese tour operator, who just landed on the Chinese stock exchange, maintaining a strong DNA linked to German origins. With this deal the two entrepreneurs aim to satisfy a clientele that is now finally starting to look at the world of vacations at sea.

“The partnership with Caissa Touristic helps to sell cruises to Chinese customers,” explains CEO of MSC to Il Sole 24 Ore-Italy24. “It is a promising market. So far we have especially targeted the three million Chinese already in Europe, however now we have to bring cruises to China and target the Chinese market. To this purpose we are expanding our fleet, with a €5 billion investment for 7 new ships by 2022.”

Gianluigi Aponte’s company boasts a tourism share of 7.6% of the total turnover, which is likely to grow in the coming years.

“In 2003 80,000 tourists traveled on our ships while in 2015 we will reach 1.7 million and in 2021 we are aiming for 3.4 million,” says Gianni Onorato. “China has become our trampoline for Asia. From 2017 onwards, we must be equipped to transport millions of passengers, not thousands. In the Mediterranean MSC is the leader, it is strong in Europe, in South America and South Africa, and we have rooted our company in Shanghai for the last five years.”

In MSC’s future plans, there will be 7-days trips on average in Korea and Japan, the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists, who are Asia’s leaders in terms of arrivals and per-capita spending. The company is also looking to adapt the ships to the tastes and preferences of these new clients.

“We will start from the menu and the on-board services,” Explains Onorato “that are to be adjusted for the Chinese public, fewer cafés and more teahouses. Furthermore, making the ships effectively Chinese means hiring Chinese and Western chefs, but also reaching out to children, and the many only children, as we are doing by signing agreements with Lego and Chicco. Making deals with luxury brands, tripling the shopping area on the ships, given the Chinese propensity to buy, they will also find MSC Logo Shops, designed to retain brand loyalty”.

“On average, the potential clientele is between 35 and 55 years-old, with wealthy young people buying a cruise vacation for their parents or traveling as a family. The first MSC model trip in China is coincidentally set for May 1, labor day.”