Inland river cruise ship sailing into the distance

  Our reporter Zhang Xue

  The breeze is blowing, and you lean on the railing to overlook the beautiful scenery on both sides of the strait... Cruise ship cruises, a unique comfort in it.

  Affected by the new crown pneumonia epidemic, international cruise cruises have been "shut down". In contrast, the situation of inland river cruises is more optimistic.

  Since the beginning of this year, the inland river cruise market represented by the Yangtze River route has continued to send good news: Ctrip chartered the "Yangtze River Cruise-Meiwei Kaizhen" sailed; the high-end luxury cruise ship "Yangtze River III" launched; multiple cruise ships The company restarted the Chongqing-Shanghai route... Cruise ship companies have worked hard to improve their internal skills and upgrade quality around products, services, marketing and many other aspects, so that the entire industry will be full of vitality.

  As a distinctive market segment, in the future, river cruises may bring more surprises to tourists.

  Booming demand

  Open online travel platforms such as Ctrip and Fliggy to search for cruises. The Yangtze River Three Gorges + Chongqing, Yangtze River Three Gorges + Yichang and other routes are quite rich in tourism products, including group tours and semi-self-guided tours. The tour time is 4 days and 3 nights. It is mainly for 5 days and 4 nights, and the price is concentrated between 2,000 yuan and 4,000 yuan.

  In the past two years, affected by the epidemic, inland river cruises have pressed the "pause button" several times.

This year, starting from the full resumption of sailing at the end of March, the Yangtze River cruise market has shown strong market demand.

  According to the Chongqing Cruise Center, since mid-April, the supply of tickets for the "May 1st" holiday has been in short supply, and the price of tickets has risen sharply. The average price of tickets for standard luxury cruises on the Chongqing-Yichang route has reached about 2,800 yuan per person, the highest 3800 yuan/person, an increase of more than 30% than usual.

In the first half of the year, the Yangtze River Three Gorges cruise ship dispatched a total of 2,083 times, which was 81.30% of the same period in 2019. Among them, luxury cruise ships dispatched 1,166 times, and economic cruise ships dispatched 917 times; a total of 410,600 passengers were completed, which is 2019. 83.85% of the same period last year, of which, luxury cruise ships completed passenger traffic of 259,900, and economic cruise ships completed passenger traffic of 158,700.

  Han Lin, deputy general manager of Ctrip's domestic business, introduced that the "Yangtze River Cruise-Meiwei Kaizhen" sailing on June 28 was the first Yangtze River cruise charter project initiated by Ctrip after the outbreak, and its sales were far more popular. Her expectations.

"There is still a week before the maiden voyage day, and the 378 seats on the ship are all sold out." She analyzed, "From the demand side, affected by the epidemic, outbound travel such as international cruises has been stagnant, and many consumers will The demand shifts back to the domestic inland cruise market, among which the Yangtze River route is the most classic route. From the perspective of the supply side, many companies carrying out international cruise business urgently need to open the inland cruise market. Both the supply and the demand hit it off, and inland cruises are extremely popular. Not surprisingly."

  Han Lin also observed two interesting consumption phenomena.

One is that middle-aged and elderly tourists have always been the main consumers of inland river cruises, accounting for more than 50% for many years.

Compared with the past more valued cost-effectiveness and willingness to choose low-end products, middle-aged and elderly tourists are now more willing to spend more to obtain more friendly services.

Second, there are more young and middle-aged people, families with parents and children joining inland river cruises, and they tend to choose better room types and floors.

“Among the users who signed up for Ctrip Cruises this time, young families and parent-child families accounted for more than 60% of the premium rooms above the executive room.” Han Lin said.

  Industry upgrade

  "Cruise ships have a long history of navigating the Yangtze River as a means of transportation." Huang Huang, a doctor of the China Tourism Research Institute, introduced that with the development of economy and society, the convenience of railways, highways, and aviation has increased. Cruise ships have become a means of transportation. Attributes have gradually faded, transportation and travel integration has become a trend, and the tourism function of cruise ships has gradually strengthened.

  Han Lin recalled that the "Three Gorges Tour" was the most classic representative of inland river cruises. It has become popular since the 1980s and 1990s. At first, tourists were mainly foreign guests.

Since 2000, the number of domestic tourists has exceeded that of foreign tourists.

Since 2019, luxury cruise ships with a passenger capacity of about 600 have been launched on the Yangtze River route, raising the level of inland river cruises to a new level.

  In order to attract domestic tourists, the major cruise companies continue to innovate in the fierce market competition, opening up new routes, new products, and improving services, which has promoted the overall transformation and upgrading of the industry.

  In the past, most of the Yangtze River cruises were launched on the Chongqing-Yichang route. Now, Chongqing Guanda Century Cruises Co., Ltd. has opened new routes from Chongqing to Wanzhou, Chongqing-Wuhan, and Chongqing-Shanghai; Chongqing Yangtze River Golden Cruises Co., Ltd. has also added Chongqing- Three short-distance routes within the city of Mudong, Chongqing-Wulong, Wanzhou-Wushan-Wanzhou......

  "In general, there is a big gap between the abundance of activities on inland river cruises and sea cruises in the past." Huang Huang said.

However, the cruise line companies are now changing this and working hard on product design.

For example, on the Chongqing-Shanghai voyage, Wuhan Yangtze River President's No. 7 cruise ship launched four themed activities: Talking about the Yangtze River, Poems and Songs, Three Kingdoms Culture, and Yangtze River Night; Century Cruises launched an immersive customized cruise ship script killing activity... a series of innovations Measures to improve the service level of the industry.

  Tap the potential

  Last year, Chongqing Guanda Century Cruises Co., Ltd. launched a Chongqing-Shanghai full-scale Yangtze River product, which is priced at RMB 18,880 and travels up to 15 days.

Because its price far exceeds the average level of inland river cruises, it has received widespread market attention once it was launched on the market.

On June 12 this year, the company's Century Legend once again started this trip.

  "The market will make a judgment on the product, and its appearance shows that the market demand for inland river cruises is further subdivided." Huang Huang said.

The reporter noticed that this voyage includes all prices. Tourists will visit 7 provinces and cities, taste three major cuisines, and roam nine historical cities and eight 5A scenic spots.

From the perspective of tour experience, the sailing mode of inland river cruises does leave tourists sufficient time to experience the itinerary on the shore. After sightseeing, return to the cruise ship, and then arrive at the next destination after a rest.

  "Sea cruise ships can be used as independent tourist destinations, but inland river cruises often cannot. They need to be integrated with tourism resources on the shore." Huang Huang said that the tourism resources along the Yangtze River are very rich. Strengthen innovation and connect these resources with better tourism products.

  Han Lin believes that there is an urgent need to improve the experience of shore excursions for cruises on the Yangtze River route, and there is a gap between the services of many scenic spots and travel agencies and consumer expectations.

In addition, the overall service level on cruise ships can be improved. Although cruise ships are also called mobile hotels, there is still a big gap compared with the services of many land-based hotels.

  Huang Huang judged that the future inland river cruise market will be further subdivided.

“Foreign inland river cruises, in addition to general big boat tours, there are many special boat tours that meet different needs. At present, inland river cruises are concentrated on the Yangtze River route, but the Pearl River routes also have the conditions for inland river cruises, and the potential is worth furthering. Dig." Huang Huang said.