The Growth of the Cruise Industry in 2020 and beyond

Whilst it was once seen to be something of a sunken industry (pun definitely intended), the cruise industry has seen a dramatic resurgence in recent years with millennials now joining the ranks of the ‘traditional’ cruising brigade.

Indeed, whereas it was once seen as a vacation option solely meant to delight those enjoying their autumn years, curious millennials have been falling in love with the concept of the cruise holiday in the last decade, with 38% of those interested in a holiday at sea in the 16-34 age range. And who could blame them?

The benefits of a cruise over a ‘conventional’ holiday are numerous and varied: Not only do you get to experience a variety of destinations on one trip but the vessels themselves are increasingly packed full of entertainment – from world-class DJ sets and live bands to tattoo parlours, night clubs, and fine-dining restaurants. The vessels themselves are also often a sight to behold, with many cruise ship models now being commissioned for collectors around the world.

But what caused this growth and where could it potentially lead the industry in the next decade?

The future is ocean-bound

The number of ocean cruises taken by UK passengers reached 2 million for the very first time in 2018 and that boom is primed to continue. In the US, the industry has been operating at almost 100% capacity for several years, with greater capacity leading to more passengers. They literally can’t build the ships fast enough. But why?

Affordability – As well as being seen as a pastime for older travellers, cruising was once seen as an option only for the very wealthy. However, affordable cruise holidays have brought the concept within the realms of financial possibility for middle-income earners too.

More ships – In 2019 around 24 new cruise ships set sail, which made it the best ever year for the introduction of new ships. Of the ships that made their grand debuts last year, perhaps the most notable was the Costa Smeralda, which is a veritable behemoth with room for over 5,000 passengers.

New brands – Last year also saw a slew of new brands enter the mix, with Jalesh Cruises setting sail in Mumbai and CTS opening in China. This year, meanwhile, major brands such as Virgin and Ritz Carlton are entering the seas, meaning there is room for more competition too.

Revitalisation – It’s not only brand new ships that are bringing more passengers out on to the open seas, but many brands are committing to major revitalisation programs for their existing fleets.

Both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have announced elaborate modernisation plans and P&O has sold off many of its older vessels to make way for a more modern fleet.

Clean cruising – It’s true that an increase in environmentally-conscious travelling could have had a negative impact on the cruising industry, but the industry has instead leant into the trend by reducing fuel consumption and looking to cut per ship emissions by 40% over the next few years.

Single-use plastic and straws have also been banned across the entire industry, so if you’re looking for a cleaner alternative to flying, causing might be your best bet.

Room left to grow

The best thing about the cruise market boom is that there is still plenty of room left for it to continue growing. Only around half of the US target market has ever actually taken a cruise and there are also more destinations being added to cruising routes by the year. As a whole, meanwhile, the industry has around $65 billion in ships on backorder and the top brass are always looking ahead at the next big thing.

Technology continues to push the industry forward, with connectivity high on the agenda for the immediate future. The MSC Cruises ship Bellissima, for example, gives each guest their very own virtual personal assistant in every room.

With China set to become the largest cruise market in the coming years (after a little work is put into their distribution systems) and more people across the world by the day discovering what it has to offer, 2020 is looking very bright indeed for the cruise industry.