The missing 60,000 British passengers – how the cruise industry got its sums wrong

Britannia: One of the ships launching next year

Britannia: One of the ships launching next year

‘Another record year for British passengers’ proclaimed the headlines – including mine – in January when the cruise industry body CLIA released its forecast figures for 2013.

A total of 1.79million Britons were said to have taken a holiday at sea, up five per cent or 89,000 on the previous year. Unusually, there was no forecast for the current year, leading some commentators such as Captain Greybeard to suggest the seemingly unstoppable increase in figures over the last decade might be on the wane.

It now emerges two months later that the rise in British passengers last year was, to say the least, generously over-estimated and that only 1,726,000 took a cruise – 64,000 fewer than forecast and cutting the annual rise from five per cent to 1.5 per cent.

The new figures were seemingly released at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference on Thursday, March 13. But that doesn’t mean you would have read about them.

Despite the wide media coverage of the event, I was unable to find a single press report or blog with the new British figures. True, they were included in a CLIA press release on the European cruise market, though they were oddly missing from similar statements sent to British media – and widely reported – saying the number of passengers beginning their cruise from a UK port topped a million for the first time.

I quote the European version of the press release:

The number of British cruise passengers grew 1% to 1,726,000 in 2013, with the UK remaining Europe’s largest source market responsible for 27% of the continent’s cruise traffic. Over the past five years, despite a challenging economic climate, the market has grown by an annual average rate of 3.2%.

Andy Harmer, Director of CLIA UK & Ireland, said: ‘The ever-increasing choice of cruise holidays, the diversity of destinations and the exceptional service levels have resulted in another record year for the UK cruise industry. And with our economy now expanding positively, we are optimistic that cruising will continue to grow.’

The cruise industry certainly hopes the number of British passengers continues to increase. Next year sees the ‘battle of Southampton’ when new mega-ships Britannia, from P&O Cruises, and Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas go head to head with Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess.

It will take 11,000 holidaymakers just to fill those three ships for one voyage.

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