The economic slowdown has yet to dent the UK cruise market, which grew 11% last year, according to the new Cruisestat Annual Cruise Holiday Market Digest UK & Europe 2008 report.The report also says there is no sign of an end to the cruising boom in the UK and expects more than 1.5m to book a cruise in 2008 and anticipates 2 million UK holidaymakers will be cruising within four years.
The UK remains the largest source market in Europe accounting for 34% of European passengers, followed by Germany (19%), Italy (16%), Spain (13%) and France (7%). Passenger growth across Europe overall in 2007 was 17%. And there was significant growth in all markets reflecting the broad appeal of cruising.
The report says this growth in cruising has been driven by the investment in new ships and new UK and Europe focused itineraries not just by home-based cruise lines but also by those previously concentrated on the North American market.
Some of the newest, largest and most innovative ships are now cruising out of UK and European ports while the 4m-plus British and European passengers now also have an unprecedented range of increasingly exotic flycruise options from which to choose.
With 44 new ships costing a combined £12bn on order through to 2012, this range can only increase and continue to broaden the appeal of cruising. More families are already choosing to cruise and the average age of British cruise passengers fell to its lowest-ever level in 2007.
In real terms, the average price of a cruise has not increased in a decade with a summer cruise in 2007 costing just £10 more than in 2005. This price stability helps to explain the level of pent-up demand which saw one in every two passengers in 2007 booking their cruises more than six months ahead and nearly one in five more than a year ahead.
Travel agents remain the major distribution network for cruise companies and many more agents are now specialising in cruise sales.