A 50,000 rise in British and Irish ocean cruise guests during 2018 saw the sector reach a record total of 2,009,000 – a 2% increase on the previous 12 months.
Tony Roberts, chair of Clia UK and Ireland and Princess Cruises’ vice-president UK and Europe, described the milestone, which was reached two years earlier than the association had predicted, as “a fantastic achievement”.
Andy Harmer, Clia UK and Ireland director, said he believed the expansion of UK-centric Marella Cruises and the christening of Azamara Pursuit in Southampton last August, as helping to break the two million mark, as well as "the fantastic engagement" of travel agents to promote and sell cruise.
“The industry relies upon agents expanding cruise to people who have never done it or considered it before for their holiday choice - their passion and engagement has been essential," he said.
Roberts also cited a number of extended seasons by lines sailing ex-UK as also “helping to bring more Brits onboard”.
Discussing Clia’s next passenger target and how it would measure consumer demand in future, Roberts said despite global cruise passenger growth of between 6-8% predicted each year, it was difficult to pinpoint exactly when the UK and Ireland would reach its next milestone.
This was down to capacity restrictions in shipyards for new tonnage and the worldwide deployment strategies of lines, he explained.
“It’s difficult to look at a particular market, such as the UK, and predict our growth in a particular year, so we want to look and measure how cruising is penetrating the wider holiday market and not just one focus on one central number each year,” he explained.
Breaking down the figures, Roberts revealed the average duration of sailings taken by the UK and Irish market was 10.1 days – slightly longer than the rest of Europe, while Clia had also seen a 5% rise in the number of 14-day cruises.
The number of shorter "taster" cruises, those taken between 1-3 days, had also risen by 24%.
“People are dipping their toe in and trying cruise and it’s clear they are getting addicted to it," he added.
Harmer said that out of the first-time cruise passengers surveyed by Clia over the past 12 months, 90% said they would sail again.
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