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Booming cruise industry boasts high-water mark

TAIPEI -- Amid a booming cruise market in Asia, Taiwan has seen a record high number of port calls from international cruise ships this year that also brought a new high for revenues from cruise tourism.

As of the end of November, 363 cruise liners have docked in Taiwan, 11.3 percent more than the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

The ships have carried 536,000 passengers into Taiwanese ports, a year-on-year growth of 60 percent, of whom 400,000 landed in Keelung in the north.

Taiwan is not the only beneficiary of increasing interest in cruises, according to data from the Cruise Lines International Association, as the regional market saw 8-9 percent growth this year.

The transportation ministry's Department of Navigation and Aviation said that cross-strait cruises in particular have gotten a big boost.

The department said that Taiwan expects to break this year's record in 2014, when as many as 412 cruise liners could bring 578,000 passengers to Taiwanese ports.

Assuming each passenger spends US$100 a day in Taiwan, this year's 536,000 passengers could be worth up to US$53.6 million in tourism revenues, added Wei Shuo-liang, a spokesman for the Port of Keelung under Taiwan International Ports Corp. Ltd.

Of this year's passengers, nearly half were Taiwanese nationals at 260,000, while Chinese tourists accounted for about 50 percent of overseas passengers, followed by Japanese and American travelers.

Chinese tourists spent the most in Taiwan on average: US$500 per person per day, mostly spent at duty-free shops and tourism stores.

Most foreign visitors came between May and October, Wei noted.

Taiwan International Ports Corp. has been aggressively promoting cruise ship tourism and has signed cooperative letters of intent with cruise liners in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xiamen, according to Wei.

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