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River cruise passengers surpass 200,000 for first time

The number of Britons taking a river cruise has risen by 21% year-on-year, according to figures released by Clia UK & Ireland today.

In 2017, the UK river cruise market reached 210,400 passengers compared to 174,400 in 2016 and 129,700 in 2012.

This is the first time the cruise industry body has released annual river cruise figures for the UK market.

Although a clear difference compared to Clia’s ocean cruise numbers, which showed 1,959,000 Britons took an ocean cruise holiday in 2017, Andy Harmer, Clia UK & Ireland director, said the future looked positive for the river cruise sector.

“About 10 years ago Clia did not have any river cruise members,” said Harmer, adding: “River cruises bring different experiences to those that you get on ocean ships.

“There has been huge amount of investment on new ships, ports of call in both ocean and river.”

Giles Hawke, the Clia UK & Ireland deputy chairman, added: “What has driven this growth? The money has been put into new ships that have come into the market.”

Eleven new ships came into the market in 2017, ten ships are set to launch this year and eight vessels have already been slated for delivery next year, Hawke said.

“It is not just one river cruise line driving this growth,” Hawke said. “All river cruise lines are contributing.”

The average length of a river cruise has risen from 6.7 days to 7.7 over the 12-month period, an increase which Hawke called “significant”.

He also revealed sailings on the Irrawaddy and Mekong rivers grew by 8.2% but predicted that future figures would be affected by military unrest in Burma.

The Nile saw a spike in passenger numbers, increasing by just over 14% from 2016.

Rivers in India – where Hawke anticipates more waterways will be used by operators in the coming years – also showed a rise, with 27% more Britons taking a cruise there compared to 2016.

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