Hong Kong may soon allow cruises to nowhere from the city, but only for fully vaccinated residents, creating a potential challenge for resumption due to low vaccination rates.
Local tourism and health officials in Hong Kong are reportedly nearing the end of talks to allow cruises to resume, but a vaccine mandate will severely limit the potential market.
Hong Kong has only fully vaccinated around 11% of its residents, meaning that the actual market eligible to book cruises will be just 800,000 or so people.
Nevertheless, cruise lines are lining up to resume cruises from the city, with Royal Caribbean International and Genting Cruises both on the call schedule at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal for 2021.
The latter has scheduled sailings by Genting Dream and Royal Caribbean has Ovation of the Seas on the call schedule.
Ovation has since been scheduled to sail in Alaska, but will likely be replaced in a potential Hong Kong restart with another Royal Caribbean ship, according to Cruise Industry News.
The potential plans were revealed by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah on Monday after a Legislative Council meeting.
Tau told local media that the Hong Kong government is currently discussing the plan with cruise lines, but did not specify which ones.
He reiterated that only fully vaccinated residents would be able to cruise, and that it could be some weeks before the first voyages depart.
“If thousands of crew have to undergo quarantine and vaccination upon arriving at Hong Kong, it will take a while to get prepared for the voyages,” he said. “And citizens who want to join high seas cruises will have to get vaccinated in advance.”
Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal has been closed since February last year and the city’s tourism sector has ground to a virtual standstill.
Now, with cruise lines having shown that they can operate cruises safely in Europe and Singapore, Hong Kong is moving to join the UK in reopening the sector.
In Europe, cruise lines have been operating since last year, with a few pauses in-between due to changing travel restrictions.
Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the voyages could begin as soon as the end of July based on Yau’s comments.