TV series such as Cruising With Jane McDonald and The Cruise have helped swell the number of British and Irish people taking a holiday at sea, industry chiefs said today.
The increasing use of social media and rising numbers of millennials on board have also helped cruising become more mainstream and push UK and Irish annual passenger numbers above 2million, said Tony Roberts, the vice president of Princess Cruises in the UK and Europe.
The Channel 5 series featuring former cruise ship singer Jane McDonald ‘has opened up a whole new audience of people who never knew what a cruise holiday was about and got them very excited about going to different destinations’, he said.
ITV programme The Cruise pulled in 4million viewers a week, proving the huge market of potential customers, Mr Roberts told a lunchtime media briefing in London.
Nine out of ten people who cruised last year said they would take another one within 12 months, he added.
The two per cent rise in UK and Irish passenger numbers in 2018 compared with a seven per cent growth worldwide. But Mr Roberts was confident the home market was expanding fast enough to fill the extra capacity provided by the high numbers of new ships, such as 5,200-passenger Iona which joins the P&O Cruises fleet next year.
The industry ‘wasn’t immune’ from Brexit uncertainly, he admitted, but most cruise lines were in a strong position because passengers were increasingly booking months ahead.
‘The British and Irish are very robust at taking their annual holiday,’ added Mr Harmer.
The meeting also heard:
- The age of the average British and Irish cruise passenger in 2018 was 57, up from 56 in 2016 and 2017.
- The length of the average cruise has fallen from 10.4 days in 2016 to 10.1 days. The number of 14-day cruises rose by five per cent last year to 397,000 but this was balanced by an increase by 29,000 to 149,000 in people taking ‘taster cruises’ of between one and three days.
- Expedition cruises were up 44 per cent from 22,000 in 2017 to 32,000 last year.
- Global passenger numbers are expected to hit 30million this year. In 2018, most cruisers – 11.3million – went to the Caribbean, while 4million headed for the Med. For the first time, Alaska exceeded a million cruise visitors.