Asia will account for 20% of the world cruise market by 2020, according to a forecast presented by Carnival Asia CEO Pier Luigi Foschi.
Foschi said Asia will account for 3.7 million passengers in 2017, and that number will grow to 7 million by 2020. The bulk of those passengers will be sourced from China, he said.
"This is fantastic growth," Foschi said.
Currently, about 1.7 million people a year cruise from the Asia-Pacific countries, according to Zinan Liu, chairman of the Asia Cruise Association and regional vice president for Asia at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Liu said the accelerating development in Asia can be gauged by the opening of new cruise terminals in Singapore last year and Hong Kong later this year.
He added that the addition of the 3,100-passenger Voyager of the Seas to the China market by Royal Caribbean is another sign that Asia has come of age.
"It signifies that ultimately cruise companies consider Asia not as a remote strategic market but as an immediate strategic market," Liu said.
Both executives spoke at the inaugural Seatrade Hong Kong Cruise Forum, which is exploring the potential for Hong Kong cruise development.
Liu also said that growing friction between China and Japan over control of a disputed island is hurting the development of a popular cruise itinerary out of Hong Kong that goes to Taiwan and then on to Korea or Japan.
Such itineraries were granted a permit last year but Liu said the itineraries won't be fully developed in the foreseeable future because of the dispute. Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.