The UK and Ireland’s river cruise market grew 10.4% in 2018, reaching 232,300 passengers.
The number of bed nights increased 12.1%, totalling 1.8 million, delegates heard at Clia UK’s river cruise update on Tuesday (June 18).
The Danube overtook the Rhine to become most popular for river cruising, while the Douro was third most popular, seeing an increase of UK and Ireland passengers of 15% on 2017.
In terms of location, 207,000 river cruises were taken on European rivers, up from 188,700 in 2017. Passenger numbers grew 13%.
River cruises in Asia, meanwhile, accounted for 6% of overall market share, growing from 12,400 passengers to 13,200.
A total of 13 river cruise ships – including both Clia-affiliated and not – will launch this year, with five more set to launch next year.
Giles Hawke, chief executive of Cosmos and Avalon, and deputy chair of Clia, said: “The 10.4% increase represents 22,000 additional river cruises.
“At last year’s river cruise conference in Amsterdam we set a challenge to have 20,000 additional river cruises by 2020. We need 7% growth in 2019 to achieve that number for river cruise.
“Between 2016 and 2019, we are looking at a 43% increase in UK and Ireland river cruise passengers. That’s a 75,000 passenger increase. This is in part testament to our work with travel agents and their great job on sending out word to consumers.”