The cruise industry now accounts for more than a quarter of million jobs in Europe, beating expectations by two years.

It also responsible for more than 10.6 billion euros in direct expenditure and 15 million visits to European ports.

The figures were revealed by the European Cruise Council at the industry’s second annual European Cruise Contribution conference in Brussels yesterday. The ECC commissioned the report with Euroyards, MedCruise and Cruise Europe.

ECC chairman David Dingle said: “This is the first time we’ve been able to compare annual trends and the impact of the cruise industry on European job creation, wealth and tourism.”

He added: “There is no doubt that the revival of European shipping has helped to establish Europe as the new centre of gravity for the cruise industry.”

The first economic impact study produced last year predicted the cruise industry would only achieve a quarter of a million jobs and 3.6 million cruise passengers embarking on their holiday in Europe in two years’ time by 2010.

Dingle said: “We’ve hit that already, with a raft of impressive growth statistics which show how fast the cruise sector is growing in importance to European economies – embarkation figures are up 20%, passenger visits are up 21%, direct expenditure is up by 27% and ship construction is up by 32%.”

The cruise industry is now responsible for 225,586 jobs across Europe, 20% up on the 187,252 jobs connected to the industry in 2005. The report credited Europe’s position as the world leader in cruise ship design and construction for driving this growth.

The report also predicts that 4.1 million cruise tourists are likely to be sourced from European countries by 2010 and it could reach 5.1 million by 2015.