The number of cruise ship passengers who arrived in Shanghai over the first seven months of the year more than doubled compared with the same period in 2012, the municipal statistics bureau said Monday.
The figures show the city's cruise ship industry is booming despite a 14.3-percent decline in the number of shipborne passengers to the city over the period.
The city's cruise terminals handled 403,800 passengers, more than half of the 747,000 people who arrived in Shanghai on a ship from January to July, according to figures from the Shanghai Municipal Statistics Bureau.
Cruise ships made 88 departures from Shanghai over the period, up nearly 40 percent year-on-year.
The city is the home port to five cruise ships, including Royal Caribbean International's Mariner of the Seas and the Costa Crociere-operated Costa Atlantica.
The city government hopes Shanghai can rival Hong Kong and Singapore as a major player in the regional cruise market. The local government spent 1.59 billion yuan ($260 million) to build the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal and 1.26 billion yuan on the Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal.
More specifically, the government hopes to attract more foreign tourists via cruise lines. About 66,000 foreign visitors arrived in Shanghai on cruise ships from January to July, accounting for 16 percent of total passengers.
The cruise terminals themselves feature excellent facilities, but the service and nearby infrastructure could stand improvement, said Zhai Yaohua, deputy secretary of the Shanghai Cruise Ship and Yacht Association.
At Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, for example, it is difficult for passengers to find their way downtown if they are unfamiliar with the city, Zhai said.
"In some foreign countries, the cruise ship terminals are surrounded by shops, restaurants, entertainment facilities and hotels, so tourists have a lot to see when they get off the ship," Zhai told the Global Times. "But here, construction of such facilities still lags behind."
Attracting foreign tourists is key because cruises remain too expensive for many people in China.
"At the moment, cruises only appeal to the seniors and families who are comparatively well-off," Zhai said.
The bureau's report also pointed out that the city's cruise industry suffers from a limited number of destinations, such as Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.