Asia’s biggest cruise operators imploded in Hong Kong

Asia’s biggest cruise operators imploded in Hong Kong

Lim Kok Thay started a cruiseferry and gambling boat business in 1990s Hong Kong and turned it into one of Asia’s biggest cruise operators.

It was a labor of love, as well as a way to diversify the casino business set up by his father, Lim Goh Tong, in Malaysia. Under the now 70-year-old Kok Thay, Genting Hong Kong Ltd. expanded its fleet of ships, bought other cruise lines, and even added a string of German shipyards to build its vessels.

Now, more than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Kok Thay’s company is headed for liquidation. Genting Hong Kong filed a petition last week to wind up its business in one of the biggest stumbles by a cruise operator since the pathogen pummeled the industry.

It’s a stark example of how the coronavirus brought once-thriving businesses to their knees, which has the potential to impact cruise customers across the region.

A Genting spokeswoman declined Bloomberg’s request to interview Kok Thay. A representative for Genting Hong Kong didn’t immediately comment.

Kok Thay founded the company that would become Genting Hong Kong in 1993, buying ferries from a bankrupt cruise firm to operate them under the Star Cruises brand. Its first ships were all second-hand, and it was only during the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s that it started purchasing new ones.

Over the years, Genting Hong Kong extended its business beyond Star Cruises, partly by acquiring other cruise lines. It bought the Crystal Cruises brand in the U.S. and set up the high-end Dream Cruises in Asia.

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