The figure has been a longstanding target for the British cruise sector since it was set in 2015 with the industry originally aiming to reach the number by 2020.
Last year’s total of 2,009,000 marks a 2% increase from the 1,959,000 in 2017, itself a 0.5% rise from 1,950,000 recorded in 2016.
Global passenger figures in 2018 rose 7% to 28.5 million, while in Europe saw a 3.3% boost to 7.17million.
Speaking to TTG, Andy Harmer, Clia UK and Ireland director, said hitting the two million target was “testament to the great job of agents, cruise lines and media” in recent years to promote cruising to consumers.
Harmer said that in spite of Brexit uncertainty, high-profile ex-UK ship launches such as MSC Bellissima in March and Celebrity Apex, P&O’s Iona and Princess Cruises’ Enchanted Princess in 2020 could help push the figure further for coming years and helped show “the great confidence in the UK market”.
The number of passengers travelling to the eastern Mediterranean grew by 8.5% to 746,000, while the Canary Islands saw a 9.6% rise and the Baltics a 9% bump.
The central and western Med regions remained the most popular destination for European cruise passengers – equating to 2.27m passengers, while northern Europe was up 4.8% in 2018, to 1.43m passengers.
Harmer described next month’s Clia Conference in Southampton as a “good opportunity” for the sector to "come together to reassess its goals” as it looked ahead to achieve future targets.
“It is important to have an objective to work towards but there doesn’t just have to be just one target figure labelling everything,” he added.
“There are other ways we can be assessing the success and growth of the sector such as more focus on recording new-to-cruise passengers and sectors like river and expedition."
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