China Star set sail from Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. (Photo/CFP)
The world's only six-star, two-hull cruise ship, bought by entrepreneurs from Wenzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province embarked on her maiden voyage from Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour on Thursday.
The ship, named China Star and the country's first luxury cruiser, is owned by the Wenzhou-based China Cruise Co. The company has invested 500 million yuan (US$79.15 million) in purchasing and refurbishing the vessel, which can accommodate nearly 400 people across its 172 rooms and 12 floors.
Wenzhou is an economic hub known for its successful entrepreneurs and abundant private capital, but this is an effort by investors to expand their options amid the world economic downturn and in the aftermath of the debt crisis.
In 2010, the local government said the city's private fund had amounted to 600 billion yuan (US$95 billion), and would increase by 14% annually. Currently, the figure stands between 800 billion and one trillion yuan (US$127 billion-$158 billion), said Zhou Dewen, director of the city's small and medium enterprise association.
The private funds had formerly gone into to the real estate and manufacturing industries, along with stocks and futures market, making colossal profits. However, since 2009, waning external demand due to the sluggish US and European economies, a steep rise in production costs and difficulty securing financing have combined to create problems for many Chinese private enterprises.
To open up new area of investment potential, a local businessman named Huang Weijian raised more than 5 billion yuan (US$790 million) and established Wenzhou Private Capital Investment Service Center with over 10 private entrepreneurs based in Wenzhou.
Last year, at the suggestion of the center, which looks for suitable investment projects for enterprises, a group of Wenzhou business people set up a fund to establish China Cruise Co.
Huang, one of the company's shareholders, said he is confident ocean tourism will flourish in China as people have an increasing demand for leisure choices. He said the company plans to increase the fund to 2 billion yuan (US$316 million) to build the first private cruise fleet in the Chinese mainland.
The enterprise "is a good example of private businesses optimizing resource allocation and returning to the real economy. It also contributes to the upgrading and transformation of the country's modern service industry," said Zhou Dewen.