Q – We have been to China four times. I have done business there. We have an appreciation of the culture and we love the food. Our travel agent suggested we wait a year or two when we will be able to sail on Chinese theme cruises on the Viking River Line in Europe. Do you have an update on that?
A – Not an update – we can help you with the facts. Last year, Viking River, the world’s largest river boat company, carried 500,000 guests on its vessels, 88% of them from the States. In the next 36 months or so something interesting will be happening. The number of visitors to Europe from China will exceed the number visiting from the United States. But Chinese tourists are not entirely comfortable running around Europe’s cities on their own. Viking River is tapping into this market by taking two of its ships and completely dedicating them to the Chinese traveler wishing to sail Europe’s most popular waterways. The sailings will begin next year in November.
This new Viking product will feature exclusively Mandarin-speaking staff and guests. There will be several different styles of Chinese cuisine, each with its own on-board chef. Even the toiletries will be Chinese as will all of the signage. Each ship will carry eight guides. As Travel Weekly recently reported, these cruises serving the Chinese market will be considerably more upscale than their product appealing to US travelers. One of the shore excursions, for example, will be a $30,000 option to have a private jet on standby ready to fly guests anywhere in Europe they desire. Travel patterns and products will be changing in the years to come as the luxury potential of the Chinese market outpaces that of the United States,