The boost in luxury vacation travel that propelled the cruise industry in 2016 to new passenger records is just a whisper compared to what will come next, with over 12 new giant cruise ships in the yard or ordered, entire fleets redesigned and refurbished, ships specially designed for Oriental and Arctic travel and even new island destinations carved from the sand.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said the number of global cruise passengers increased by 4.5% to 24.2 million in 2016 and cruise operators will launch 26 new ocean and river vessels in 2017.
Last month, Disney Cruise Line ordered two ships for delivery in 2021 and 2023. Celebrity, Virgin, Costa, Royal Caribbean, Viking, Crystal and Regent also already have ships on order for delivery in 2020 and beyond.
“The cruise industry is responding to global demand and we are highly encouraged by both the short-term and long-term outlook,” Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA’s president and CEO, said in a statement in December. “From technological advancements and deployment of new ships to new ports and destinations around the world, the industry continues to respond to the desires of today’s travellers resulting in steady growth and strong economic impact around the world.”
According to CLIA, worldwide spending generated by the cruise industry reached $117 billion in 2015. The equivalent of 956,597 fulltime employees earned $38 billion last year, an amount that fell year-over-year even as the number of workers increased. Last year’s projection said that 939,232 employees had earned $39.3 billion in 2014 and the total economic impact for the industry was $119.9 billion. In all, 24.2 million passengers took to cruise ships in 2016 and CLIA expects that number to increase to about 25.3 million in 2017.
These are staggering statistics but these targets need to be realised to make the increased world cruise fleet pay for itself. To expect an extra 1.1 million passengers to cruise this year will be a hard target.
Let’s hope the figures are attainable otherwise there will be a number of cruise ships lying idle. Cruise ships have little use apart from static accommodation in some circumstances, so if the targets are not met, it can only mean a final voyage to Alang for some of the older vessels.