Growth in Asia and Australia is fueling the better-than-expected cruise numbers, but industry leaders would like to see the largest market — North America — make more gains as well.
But the Cruise Lines International Association had a happier surprise to talk about last week: The number of people who set sail on an ocean cruise in 2015 was 23.2 million, higher than the 23 million that had been projected. That’s an increase of 4 percent over the previous year.
With the release of the higher-than-anticipated total from last year, the industry group also increased its outlook for 2016, projecting that 24.2 million people will take an ocean cruise this year. The previous forecast called for 24 million people.
Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA’s president and CEO, said the updated 2016 numbers — which are partly derived from a survey of member agents — reflect increased bookings from agents this year.
A study conducted in February showed that 73 percent of travel agents had reported an increase in bookings to Alaska, and 48 percent were seeing higher demand for cruises to the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Mexico. Roughly a third of agents surveyed also saw greater interest in Hawaii, Panama Canal and Canada and New England cruises.
While cruise line executives have said North Americans are showing an appetite for cruises closer to home this year, much of the industry’s recent growth has come from newer global markets. The association said more than 2 million passengers took an ocean cruise in Asia last year, a 24 percent increase from 2014. And more than 1.1 million people took an ocean cruise from Australia in 2015, a 14 percent jump from the previous year.
Reporter Andrew Sheivachman contributed to this report.
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Photo Credit: Cruise ships lined up at PortMiami. Andy Newman / Associated Press
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