The cruise industry’s direct contribution to the UK economy grew by 6.5% to £2.54 billion last year from £2.38 billion in 2012.

The UK economy was the second highest beneficiary after Italy when items such as goods and services purchased by cruise lines and the salaries of their employees are included, according to a report released today (Monday) by the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia).

The direct contribution of the cruise sector to the combined economies of Europe grew by 4.7% to £13.2 billion in 2013, the study reveals.

The overall contribution of the cruise industry, including indirect items such as spending by cruise line suppliers, to the economies of Europe jumped 22% to £32.03 billion (€39.4 billion). The number of British jobs supported by the cruise industry rose by 4,000 to 70,241 in 2013.

More than a fifth of all the jobs the industry provides across Europe are now in the UK, which is also home to more cruise line employees than any other European nation, being the country of residence of more than a third (37.8%) of them.

The trend of more passengers starting cruises from UK ports saw Southampton retain its position as Europe’s largest embarkation and disembarkation port, with total numbers including day visits climbing 7.5% to 1.64 million.

Dover welcomed 22.7% more cruise passengers in 2013, to 255,137.

The number of British and overseas passengers joining their cruise at a UK port passed the 1 million mark for the first time in 2013, rising 8% to 1,062,000, while the number of passengers on day visits to one of the UK’s 51 cruise ports jumped by 20% to 866,000.

Clia UK & Ireland chairman Jo Rzymowska (Celebrity Cruises) said: “The cruise industry’s multi-billion pound investment in UK plc is paying ever-increasing dividends for the British economy.

“The UK leads the field, accounting for more passengers and more jobs than any other European country and we are confident this growth in cruise travel will continue as we see new cruise ships dedicated to the UK market being introduced in 2015.”

The UK remains Europe’s biggest cruise market, with a 27.2% share of passenger numbers in 2013 when 1.72 million British passengers took an ocean cruise – up by 25,000 over 2012.

The total number of Europeans who took a cruise last year was 6.36 million, while the worldwide passenger figure was 21.3 million.

Clia UK and Ireland director Andy Harmer said: “The cruise industry’s continued drive to offer even greater choice and quality of service is reflected in the growing number of British consumers who opt to take a cruise every year, and the contribution it makes to our economy.”

Clia Europe chairman Pierfrancesco Vago (MSC Cruises) said: “The positive results achieved this year reaffirm Europe’s position as a dynamic hub at the core of the global cruise industry.

“The cruise industry keeps generating great economic benefits for Europe during this crucial period of recovery, producing much-needed employment for European citizens as well as new business for its industries and revenue for its states.”