Penghu’s Magong Port (馬公港) looks set to accommodate large cruise liners from 2016 after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed yesterday by the Taiwan International Ports Corps (TIPC) and Royal Caribbean Cruises.
TIPC said the two parties plan to invest NT$1 billion (US$33 million) in building a 435m cruise ship dock, which would host 225,000 tonne cruise ships.
Construction of the cruise ship terminal is scheduled to begin in October and be completed in April 2016, it said.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said the project is one of the biggest foreign investment projects in recent years.
“The world’s largest cruise line operator is investing in Taiwan,” he said. “Royal Caribbean has chosen Penghu for the island’s natural environment and geographical location.”
Yeh said that Penghu County Government must be prepared to receive the passengers brought by the cruise ships.
“The question you have to ask is if the county is ready to take in 8,000 to 10,000 passengers brought by cruise ships at a time, and whether its public transport system and other facilities will have the capacity for so many tourists,” he said. “Aside from Royal Caribbean , other cruise lines might also want to invest in Penghu.”
Yeh said Penghu would be marketed, particularly to international tourists.
“We will promote Penghu as having a beautiful bay and beaches, as well as unforgettable seafood. It is also rich in history and culture,” he said. “The county must also ascertain that it is conducting sustainable tourism and that the ecosystem in Penghu will not be destroyed with the arrival of more tourists.”
Royal Caribbean vice president of commercial development John Tercek said that one of the main reasons Penghu was chosen is that it is a convenient to travel to Hong Kong and Xiamen, two base ports.
He said the company anticipates growth in traffic from the two ports over the next two years.
“We think Penghu has attributes that can be marketed,” Tercek said. “It is quite an attractive place, with beautiful beaches, culture and food. The ports in the Taiwan proper have interesting stories, but Penghu is more like a resort. We estimate that it might take five years for the market to grow.”
Tercek said Chinese demand for cruise tours departing from Beijing and Shanghai is growing by about 15 percent per year, which was why the company has added ships in the region.
These ships could come down to Taiwan as well, he said.
“Chinese customers are not looking for beach holidays. They are looking for culture, shopping and eating,” he added. “I think Penghu is a pretty place with culture and places. We need to create some shopping. If we succeed in promoting [these qualities], we could stretch out the season.”