European cruise market reaches all-time high despite challenging economic conditions

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Zayed Port - Cruise Terminal - 3Pierfrancesco Vago, Chairman of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Europe, announced yesterday (Tuesday) at the annual Cruise Shipping Miami Conference that more Europeans than ever booked a cruise in 2014 – an increase of 0.5% compared to the 2013 figures.
Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, the European cruise market has grown by 44%, proving the cruise industry’s resilience. According to the latest figures available, the economic impact of the cruise industry in Europe approached €40billion in 2013, and provided nearly 340,000 jobs.
Mr Vago, who is also Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “Once again, the number of Europeans choosing a cruise holiday has hit a new record – reaching 6.39 million passengers – despite the on-going economic difficulties in Europe. Thanks to our efforts, cruising has proved once again to be an excellent holiday choice for millions of passengers in Europe and beyond, providing great value for money.”
In 2014 Germany became Europe’s first source country with 1.77 million passengers, while France consolidated itself as the fourth largest source market in Europe, with an impressive growth of 13.7%. At the same time there was a decrease in capacity deployment in the Mediterranean, which affected several markets, due to cruise lines’ individual strategies and a backdrop of continuing economic difficulties in the EU.
Talking about the 0.5% growth rate for 2014, Mr Vago said: “This may sound like a small achievement, but if we consider the European economic climate, we can see that this is an extraordinary result, and continues our industry’s trend of steady growth year-on-year. While Europe is struggling to recover from the economic crisis, our industry has continued to grow. We have grown by an incredible 44% since 2008.
“This year’s slower growth rate reminds us that success can never be taken for granted. We are optimistic about the future, we see that the global demand for cruising is growing, and we know that opportunities for Europe are many – from low market penetration rates to new ships to be launched. But we need to work harder with European stakeholders and policy makers to overcome common challenges and increase the pressure for a more business friendly Europe.”
Raphael von Heereman, CLIA Europe’s Secretary General, said: “There are still many challenges we need to face in Europe, and these include the revision of the EU Visa Code. If we do not act swiftly to adopt it, the EU risks losing competitiveness to third countries as well as important revenues in terms of trade, investments and jobs. On the contrary, a timely adoption of a smart Visa Code would boost the European tourism sector, and enable the cruise industry to contribute even more to Europe’s economy and society.”
Largely as a consequence of reduced cruise ship capacity away from UK ports and other popular destinations for UK and Irish consumers such as the Mediterranean, the number of UK and Irish ocean cruise passengers fell by 4.8% to 1.64 million in 2014.
However, the number of UK and Irish passengers taking fly cruises increased 3% in 2014, and the longer term trends demonstrate that the UK & Ireland market remains resilient – the annual average increase in passenger numbers since the start of the economic downturn in 2008 has been 3.3% and, over the past quarter century, there has been ten-fold growth.
Andy Harmer, Director of CLIA UK & Ireland, said: “2015 is all set to be a landmark year with many additional cruise ships sailing from British waters including P&O Cruises’ Britannia, Royal Caribbean International’s Anthem of the Seas, Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Magellan, and this augers well for a renewed growth in passenger numbers from the UK and Ireland.
“The UK and Ireland continues to have one of Europe’s highest rates of market penetration for cruise holidays. Our industry is putting massive investment into new ships – over US$11 billion in the next two years alone – and we’re confident that the future prospects continue to be bright.”