CHART: Australian cruising is booming, hitting 1 million passengers six years ahead of expectations

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria in Sydney. Photo: Cunard/James Morgan.

Australians are going nuts for cruise ships, with the 2014 Australian Cruise Industry Source Market Report, released today, revealing passenger numbers jumped an incredible 20.4% last year to pass the million mark for the first time.

The industry’s annual growth in Australia continued at a staggering 20% for the past 12 years, hitting 1,003,256 cruisers in 2014. It represents an additional increase of 170,000 passengers on year-on-year.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasian chairman Gavin Smith said that hitting the one million mark had come six years ahead of expectations.

“Five years ago, the industry thought that it might be possible to achieve one million passengers a year by 2020 – to reach that number in 2014 is an amazing result and shows the true passion Australians have for cruise holidays. If our growth rate continues at just 12.5 per cent for the next six years, we will reach two million passengers by 2020,” he said.

France was the only other major world market to achieve double digit growth last year at 13.6%.

Australia also has the world’s highest market penetration, with 4.2% of Australians taking a cruise last year, well ahead of North America at 3.4%. Australia is now the world’s fourth largest market for cruise passengers at 4.5%, behind North America (54.2%), Germany (8%) and UK/Ireland (7.4%).

Our appetite for boats in other countries is also growing, with river cruises, especially in Europe, jumping 62% to 79,530 passengers last year.

The most popular cruise destination for Australians is the South Pacific, attracting more than 390,000 passengers, or nearly 40%.

New South Wales is the biggest market, with 410,331 passengers making up 41% of the total, ahead of Queensland with 236,770 (23.6%), although that strength can in part be explained by the fact that they are the only two states that operate all year. People from the ACT love cruising the most with 6.7% of the territory’s 390,000 residents jumping on a boat.

Australians spent an estimated 10 million days at sea in 2014, a rise of around 14.4%, or just under 1.3 million days, however the time they spent cruising fell slightly to an average of 9.7 days on ocean cruises, while it’s 13 days on river cruises.

An industry push to get people to sample cruising with short trips appears to have worked with passengers on cruises of up to four days jumping by 59%, however the 8-14 day duration accounts for more than half of the market at 54%.

The Australian cruise industry is currently worth more than $3.2 billion. Its continued growth means Royal Caribbean’s $1.3 billion, 170,000 tonne megaliner, Ovation of the Seas, is heading to Sydney in summer 2016 once it hits the water following its build in Germany.

And here’s the chart showing the growth in Australia’s cruising numbers:

Source: 2014 Australian Cruise Industry Source Market Report

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