The U.K. retained its number one spot as Europe's cruise market in 2011, according to data from the European Cruise Council (ECC).
Residents of the U.K. & Ireland account for approximately 28 per cent of all European cruise passengers – or 1.7 million passengers.
However, this year -- marred by the Costa Concordia accident in January -- is looking “flat” at best, according to the chairman of the Passenger Shipping Association, Peter Shanks.
Commenting on the report, Shanks, who is also Managing Director of Cunard, told Cruise Critic:
“This report is positive news for the cruise industry in 2011, but the outlook for growth in 2012 is flat. There's no new capacity coming out of the U.K.
“We will fill ships this year, it's a question of what happens with price.
“Up until the Costa Concordia the market was doing well, prices were up.”
Although Costa in terms of sales is tiny in the U.K. market, it has still had an effect overall on prices in the U.K.
Many lines have excess capacity and have been forced to run sales, offer upgrades and onboard credit. Many passengers are also waiting until the last minute to make bookings sometimes just a month out from departure.
Shanks, whose line was hit by a security breach a few days ago, added: “What we would prefer is to sell everything at full price very early, but in a difficult economic environment we have to do what's necessary to fill ships.”
The report also revealed:
• Germany is ranked the second-biggest European cruise market with 1.4 million passengers and Italy third with 923,000 passengers.
• Southampton is the second busiest cruise port after Venice in Europe with 1.5 million passengers.
• The number of U.K. passengers who took a cruise in 2011 increased by 10.7 per cent.
• Overall European passenger numbers rose by nine per cent to 6.2 million.
• The global figure for 2011 was 20.6 million passengers.
--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor