Cruise grows despite travel industry pressures

Sam Ballard, the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER, ponders on why cruise is well-equipped to see out the dip in consumer confidence

The news that the number of UK and Ireland cruise passengers reached two million for the first time in 2018, is very good for an industry that is struggling under the pressures created by Brexit.

Last year, the number of cruises taken by UK and Irish customers grew by 2.2 per cent. While that growth is great, it was slower than both European (3.3 per cent) and the overall Global increase (7 per cent). This highlights two things: that we are most definitely in a climate of lower consumer confidence (if we didn’t know that already), and that the cruise sector is still managing to defy those headwinds regardless.

However, what can we do as an industry to fight those headwinds? The answer, it seems, lies in the fact that the cruise industry is one of the most dynamic in the entire travel sector. Over the last few weeks I have been lucky enough to see ships with planetariums, F1 simulators and laboratories on board. We’ve reported on launches on the Douro and in Southampton. Our coverage has spanned virtually the entire planet.

The cruise industry is booming. The technology – both passenger and marine – that is being developed on board vessels is nothing short of spectacular. These are vessels that are capable of providing the holidays of a lifetime.

They are also time sensitive. It is unusual for ships to repeat the same itineraries in 2019 as they will in 2020. If guests want to see a certain ship in a certain destination then they need to book that itinerary. Whether it’s Anthem of the Seas returning to Southampton in 2020 or one of Silversea’s cruises departing from London Bridge. Every single cruise is a unique event. And, that’s just the departures. Think about what awaits your clients at the various ports along the way. Will they visit Rio during the Carnival, Sydney at New Year or Japan during the Cherry Blossom season?

“2018 was an impressive year for the UK and Ireland cruise industry,” explains Andy Harmer, Clia UK & Ireland director. “Surpassing the two million mark is a significant milestone, as it illustrates how cruise has become a major player within the UK and Irish travel sector.

“As only the second European market to reach over two million cruises and the fourth globally, this figure demonstrates the continued strength of cruising as a mainstream holiday choice in the UK and Ireland and is a testament to the industry’s resilience to economic and political changes.”

The figures back that up. We just need to make sure that we can keep the momentum up.

First published on Cruise Adviser.