During the past years, the 2nd most populous city in Korea, Busan, has grown increasingly popular as cruise destination.
The number of travellers arriving on cruise ships topped 50,000 in 2011, and began to increase rapidly starting in 2012, jumping to 113,000 in 2013, and then doubling again to 245,000 in 2014. After dipping to 163,000 in 2015 after Korea’s MERS outbreak, more than 500,000 cruise passengers visited Busan this year, surpassing the half-million milestone for the first time.
Busan Port Authority expects the increase to continue, and officials anticipate that more than 700,000 cruise visitors will make port next year. Some 30 cruise ships are so far scheduled to land in Busan for a total of 280 visits throughout 2017, compared to 220 port calls this year.
According to officials, the fast-growing cruise market in China is the biggest reason for the city’s increasing popularity, with shipowners operating bigger vessels (100,000 GT-ton plus) that can carry over 4,000 passengers.
Such vessels, which only visited the city eight times in 2011, jumped in number this year to 120, including two of the biggest cruise ships operating in Asia – Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas, each coming in at 168,666 tons.
To better accommodate cruisers, local authorities are making a handful of improvements to related facilities and regulations, starting with increasing the maximum height of ships allowed to pass under the Busan Harbor Bridge from 60 meters to 64 meters to allow larger ships to use the city’s newly-built Busan Port International Passenger Terminal.
Officials also plan to build an additional immigration center at International Passenger Terminal by April 2017 to ease the immigration processing time, while International Cruise Terminal (Yeongdo) is currently being renovated to accommodate the world's largest cruise vessels (up to 220,000 GT tons).