My Italian friend, Stefano Fermi, has been running his web site, Cybercruises.com, for as long as CruiseMates has been online; since the 20th century. Last week he published an article compiling some statistics about the overall growth in cruise popularity in Europe.
The figures are quite staggering. In 2007, for the first time, more than 4 million Europeans sailed on a cruise. That same figure was achieved in the United States fifteen years ago, but the difference is in how quickly Europeans are taking to cruising.
In the U.S. the year over year growth rate for cruising remains at about four to five percent each year. But in 2007 the European market grew by 17% - in one year! And surprisingly, while Britain contributed most of those cruisers, the rate of growth in other European countries is higher than Britain's.
Last week we talked about the Brits discovering cruising, but that is really more of a perception than reality, mostly due to big events like the launch of Independence of the Seas in London last month. The Brits have been cruising on Cunard, P&O, Fred Olsen, Saga and other cruise lines for a long time now.
The rate of growth in the U.K. was 11% this year, but in Spain the market grew 32% in one year! One-third more Spanish cruisers in 2007 than the year before. The Italian cruise market grew by 24% and the French market grew 17%. Britain typically contributes one-third of all European cruisers, but last year it was almost matched by the number of new cruisers coming from both Spain and Italy, both of those countries coming within 10,000 passengers of the UK market's growth last year.
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Now, it is a fact that as a cruise market grows bigger the percentage of growth tends to go down, that is a simple mathematical reality. Therefore, while a more mature market like Britain tends to show a smaller growth rate each year, it is still significant that the cruise industry manages to grow every year.
There are two kinds of growth; existing markets and new (emerging) markets. This growth in emerging markets is a testament to the innate appeal of cruising as a vacation. It isn't only Americans who love cruise ships, it is every culture who tries them. Right now the growth is concentrated in Europe, but it won't be long before we are talking about how many Asians, east and west, try their first cruise every year.
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