Global cruise passenger volumes in 2023 exceeded pre-pandemic levels, Clia finds

Global 2023 cruise passenger volumes reached 31.7 million in 2023, surpassing pre-pandemic 2019 figures by 7%, according to data released by industry body Clia.

In its 2024 State of the Cruise Industry report, the association found the US was the largest source market in 2023, with 18.1 million passengers, followed by Europe with 8.2 million.

The UK saw a 15% rise in cruise passenger volumes from 2019 to 2023, an increase from 1.9 million to 2.2 million.

More: ‘We cannot build ships quickly enough to keep up with demand,’ say cruise lines

The association forecast a further rise in global cruise passengers in the next four years, predicting 35.7 million in 2024, 37.1 million in 2025, 38.9 million in 2026 and 39.4 million in 2027.

A survey conducted in March found 82% of people who had cruised said they would do again while 71% of international travellers said they were considering taking their first cruise.

Data highlighted the value of the trade to the cruise industry, as the association found 73% of cruisers said agents have a “meaningful impact” on their decision to cruise, the main driver of which is the agent’s “knowledge and experience”.

The top reasons given by customers as to why they like to cruise were the ability to visit multiple destinations and value for money.

Expedition cruising was the fastest growing sector, as the number of passengers sailing on these itineraries increased 71% from 2019 to 2023.

Global cruise capacity is forecast to grow by at least 10% in the next four years, from 677,000 berths in 2024 to 745,000 in 2028, as at least 56 more ships are scheduled to come online, costing $38 billion.

Kelly Craighead, Clia president and chief executive, said: “Cruise continues to be one of the fastest growing and most resilient sectors of tourism, rebounding faster than international tourist arrivals and a strong contributor to local and national economies.

“Cruise is the best vacation value there is, with incredible guest experiences delivered by a talented and dedicated multinational workforce of nearly 300,000 seafarers.

“With at least 56 new ships coming online between 2024 and 2028, there are vast opportunities for careers in cruise, which boasts an impressive employee retention rate upwards of 80%.”

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