Stena Line has become the first passenger ferry company in Europe to achieve official recognition from tour operators in China and hopes that will further boost sales.
Growing numbers of middle class tourists from the country are travelling to Europe and many are taking coach trips using the Cairnryan to Belfast route, Stena added.
Orla Noonan, the firm’s travel commercial manager, said: “We’re extremely proud that we have been able to achieve this unique service standard on our Cairnryan to Belfast route.
“The number of Chinese visitors we have been welcoming onboard our Stena Superfast VII and VIII vessels has been growing significantly in recent years so it’s important that we do all we can to make our guests feel welcome and valued.”
Stena’s China Tourist Welcome (CTW) certification represents an official travel status recognised by the Chinese authorities.
Ms Noonan added: “We made a number of changes onboard, including updating our current services, products and communications, to ensure that we were China-ready and focused on providing a special welcome to all of our Chinese passengers.
“We already welcome around 40,000 Chinese tourists annually on our Cairnryan to Belfast route and our latest certification means we are now recognised as the first in Europe to ensure that Chinese guests are treated to the best possible standards.”
Stena Line has recorded strong overall numbers on its Belfast services for the first six months of 2017.
To the end of June, freight volumes increased by 5 per cent, while passengers and cars grew by 4 per cent year-on-year.
The fastest growing sector was coaches, recording a record 19 per cent increase.
The rise in coach volumes has been boosted by the increasing demand for day visits and the demand from Chinese tour parties.
Niall Gibbons, chief executive officer of Tourism Ireland, said: “Stena Line has taken part in several of Tourism Ireland’s sales missions to China in recent years so it’s really great to see the result of those promotions and the significant growth in the number of Chinese visitors travelling on Stena Line vessels. The potential of the Chinese outbound travel market is significant.”