The Carnival Corporation-owned subsidiary Costa Asia (which also targets the Chinese market) is canceling all future departures due to waning expectations Beijing would ease its zero-tolerance COVID policy/border restrictions any time soon.
Call ports in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Japan will be canceled since international voyages in those locations still have not resumed, the Genoa-based company said in a statement, adding that it was reorganizing its business in the region.
“After the pause imposed due to the pandemic, the resumption of international tourism across the whole region has been registering continuous delays, and we don’t know when and how international cruises will restart in the area. Given the continued uncertainty we had to take this decision.”
Though Costa didn't reference China, the company had plans to tap customers there. It was the first cruise brand to enter in 2006 and built 2 massive ships exclusively for the Chinese market, but plans for the 2021 debut of Costa Firenze in Asia never materialized and the liner was redeployed to Europe as Chinese leaders adopted a COVID Zero policy to deal with the crisis. However, China is widely expected by the cruise industry to eventually become the world's largest market.
Hopes of China easing COVID restrictions faded after the leadership shuffle over the weekend at the Communist Party congress. Chinese tourism stocks, along with Asian equities, slumped on Monday, even after it was reported that officials were looking at easing the mandatory quarantine policy for those coming into the country.
Since the onset of the COVID crisis, China has allowed limited cruise shipping operations domestically for mainland residents, with most taking place on inland rivers/along local coastlines. China recently allowed a domestic operator to restart a voyage to the disputed Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims in the South China Sea.
Costa Cruises said it was informing employees/local stakeholders in Asia affected by the cancellation of Asian voyages.