Holiday option: Cruising is a dominant pastime for nine million US tourists
THE WORLDWIDE economy is in the doldrums and jobless numbers are rising, but it hasn't stopped people from taking cruises to get away from it all.
Globally, 13 million passengers took a cruise last year, four per cent more than the previous year, including nearly nine million who embarked from a US port, according to a new report released by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
Although the numbers marked a small decline from US ports, Terry Dale, the president and CEO of CLIA, said demand increased in the European market.
"Our industry is becoming more and more global. That is a very positive development for us," he told a teleconference to launch the report.
Interest in cruising is reaching an all-time high in Europe, and is growing in Asia, but the US is still the dominant market, the report showed.
"I think globalisation is just going to be a natural, evolutionary offshoot of where we are going," said Bob Sharak, the executive vice president of CLIA, North America's largest cruise industry organisation.
"In 2008 the cruise industry continued to increase its presence in Europe," he said, adding it represents a 14 per cent increase from 2007.
In the US, Florida is the center of the US cruising industry and has three of the top ports, Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades, in the nation, followed by California.
The report compiled by Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA) showed that a typical 2,500 passenger ship generates about $330,000 (£199,332) from passengers and crew in the embarkation port and $320,000 (£193,285) in a port-of-call city on taxis, restaurants, attractions and shopping.
Mega ships, with as many as 4,000 passengers, would generate even more income for cities.
"We've seen occupancies well in excess of 100 per cent and a mix of US and international guests - about the same," Sharak explained.
"People not only want to take a vacation. They absolutely need to take a vacation. They are working harder and they need to get away and they want to get away and get the best bang for their buck."
Almost 35 million Americans intend to cruise over the next three years, according to an industry market profile report.
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