Growth in the number of people taking cruises will slow for 2009 but the industry is well placed to weather the economic downturn, according to the Passenger Shipping Association.

In figures revealed at the ABTA Travel Convention in Gran Canaria, a total of 1.5 million British holidaymakers are expected to take a cruise this year and the number of cruise passengers will grow around 2-3% in 2009.

This is a significant slowdown from the 11% growth seen from 2006 to 2007.

PSA director Bill Gibbons said: “We are still a relatively young industry, with plenty of opportunity to grow as new ships come into service. With the present economic climate, cruising is better placed that many other sectors as the inclusive nature of a cruise holiday makes it easy to budget for, while continuing to offer exceptional value for money.”

Fourteen ship launches are planned for 2009 and the PSA is anticipating the number of British cruise passengers to head towards 1.7 million cruise passengers in 2010.

New launches for next year include Royal Caribbean Internation’s Oasis of the Seas, which will be the largest cruise ship in the world spanning 16 passenger decks. Carnival Cruise Lines will introduce the family ship Carnival Dream, while Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises will each launch two ships .

One trend for 2009 will be ultra luxury cruise ships, with launches from Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea Cruises expected to attract the luxury travellers to cruising.

Cruise lines will also be adding new exotic long-haul destinations to their programmes. Orion Expedition Cruises had added Papua New Guinea and Melanesia to its 2009 programme, giving guests the chance to discover remote islands untouched by tourism.

More news from the ABTA Travel Convention 2008