Dear John: We are a US-based travel company specializing in the high-end, luxury, ocean-going cruise line tourism industry through our website and online services. We understand that very few Chinese tour companies offer online services for cruise line packages and that the Chinese are developing an interest in booking such services in Asia and perhaps worldwide. Would Chinese customers be interested in these services?

Although the river-going domestic cruise industry has, and will, suffer greatly from the tragic disaster on the Yangtze River this past spring, ocean-going, luxury, foreign-flagged cruise ship travel will remain very popular. It is expected that China will be the world's second-largest cruise market by 2017, with the highest growth rates in the world. The Asian Cruise Association estimated in a 2013 report that Asia demand will nearly triple to 3.8 million annual cruisers in 2020, with 1.6 million coming from China. The Chinese Transport Ministry has identified Northeast and Southeast Asia, the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea as the main growth areas for the cruise industry. Although currently the Chinese tend to limit a cruise to an average of five days, it is expected that they will soon evolve into the European and American model of longer durations that may combine a flight as well as a cruise.

Unless your business intends to operate exclusively off-shore to those Chinese tourists who have the ability to book and pay in foreign currency abroad, be aware that operating a foreign-invested tourism and travel business in China is highly regulated and, in many instances, restricted. Most importantly, foreign-invested travel agencies are prohibited from offering outbound tourism services to Chinese nationals and this tends to necessitate entering the domestic market through a local joint venture partner licensed to provide such services.

AmCham China can recommend many of its member companies which are expert at assisting businesses within this industry.

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