Whether it’s the cuisine from celebrity-chef kitchens, the promise of new experiences, or the lure of duty-free shopping and hassle-free sight-seeing, a recent study confirms that in the past decade the cruise industry has successfully navigated a course toward continued expansion.
Statistics from a 2016 independent study — the Economic Impact Analysis commissioned by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and conducted by Business Research and Economic Advisors — bear this out. Key findings include:
- 11.6 million cruise passengers worldwide embarked from U.S. ports, more than ever before
- A record 24.2 million passengers cruised globally
- The global cruise industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy was a record-setting $47.76 billion
- The transportation sector, which includes cruise lines and ports, benefited from $7.35 billion in output, 78,066 jobs and $3.65 billion in wages and salaries
- Florida accounted for nearly 61 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations, with a total of 7.08 million
- Embarkations from California’s ports — Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco — jumped to 1.06 million, a 5.5 percent increase since 2014
- 65 new ships are slated to debut between 2015 and 2020
CRUISING’S APPEAL AND THE HOMEPORT ADVANTAGE
Increased consumer confidence and a robust U.S. economy aren’t the only reasons more and more people are choosing to spend their vacation cash on a cruise. While the average age of a cruise traveler, according to CLIA, is 49, with an average income of $114,000, statistics show that younger people are also booking cruises in greater numbers. The appeal of cruise travel, it seems, now crosses a wide range of ages and stages — from Baby Boomers to Gen-Xers to Millennials.
And here’s another factor that has, no doubt, contributed to the ongoing increase in bookings: The cruise industry has established over 30 North American embarkation points, with 75% within driving distance of North American vacationers. By making it possible for vacationers to reach cruise ships without the added expense of air travel, these homeports are helping to broaden the customer-base for leisure cruising.
POSSIBLE OBSTACLES TO FUTURE GROWTH
The outlook for the cruise industry appears to be overwhelmingly positive, but there are a few obstacles that could have an impact the industry’s upward trajectory:
- Changes in regulations
- More curbs on travel to Cuba
- China’s emergence as a significant player in the cruise ship arena
- Unforeseen geopolitical events
- Natural disasters
- Cruise-related incidents
While all the above are possible, it’s more likely that the cruise industry will continue to grow. After all, 48 percent of non-cruisers surveyed expressed interest in taking a cruise. And as for those who have already been passengers, 95% have rated the experience as satisfying, with nearly half saying they were “Extremely Satisfied.” For the industry as a whole, that’s the kind of good news that promises more of the same.