Cruise growth makes Australia “global leader”, industry says.

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Australia’s market penetration of cruising is leading the world after passenger numbers soared more than a fifth in 2013, figures released this morning have shown.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said 833,348 Australians took a cruise last year, a rise of 20% on the previous year. It meant the market penetration of the sector increased from 3% to 3.6%, making Australia the “world leader”, according to CLIA Australasia chairman Gavin Smith.

“The relevance of cruising in Australia’s households is at a level that has never been seen in any other country,” Smith said on board Pacific Jewel this morning at the launch of the Cruise Industry Source Market Report.

“In any market and by any estimate it is a wonderful achievement. It’s been another great year and another record summer.”

North America has a market penetration rate of 3.3%, the UK 2.5% and Germany 2.1%.

The growth prompted Carnival Australia chief executive Ann Sherry to suggest market penetration in Australia could hit a staggering 30% by 2030 while passenger numbers could, at the very least, hit 1.5 million by 2020.

The original target was one million cruisers by the end of the decade, a figure that is likely to be achieved by 2016.

The rate of growth is more than twice the level of any other major cruise market, Smith said.

He added that the potential for further growth remained strong.

“Australia is still a relatively young cruise market, yet the number of Australians taking a cruise has grown by an enviable average of 20% a year for the last 11 years as a growing number of travellers discover the many joys of cruising,” he said.

The South Pacific captured 40% of the market with 330,670 Aussies cruising the region, a rise of almost 31% on 2012. The number cruising around Australia climbed 6% to 148,527 while 77,308 Aussies headed to Europe for a voyage, a rise of 34%. Asian cruising increased 28% to 44,382.

River cruising again saw solid growth with 49,122 travelling the world’s waterways, a 25% lift on 2012.

The report showed that Australians spent a total of 8.7 million days at sea in 2013, up 22% on 2012 with the number taking a voyage of between eight and 14 days rising almost 35%.

New South Wales remained the leading source of cruise passengers, accounting for 41% of the market.

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