Source: adapted from Cruise Market Watch.
Global Cruise Passengers Carried, 1990-2014
The size of the global cruise markets doubles about every 10 years, which represents an annual growth rate of about 7%. This growth so far has been relatively unaffected by recessions for a number of reasons. First, the size of the global cruise industry is relatively small compared with the tourism industry, which accounted for 1 billion arrivals in 2011. For instance, it was estimated that about 37 million people visited Las Vegas in 2010, while the global cruise industry carried about 18 million passengers the same year. However, this observation must be nuanced by the fact that most cruises typically involve 3 to 5 ports of call with the corresponding number of visits per passengers. So, 18 million passengers are accounting for several visits each during a cruise. Second, the industry remains fundamentally derived by the supply of ships and itineraries. The strategy is thus to fill the ships, which are a fixed supply, and when the demand is weaker, discounts are offered to keep the ships full. Third, the customer base of the cruise industry tends to be of a higher income level than the customer base of the tourism industry at large. This market segment is usually less impacted by economic downturns. Further, the growth in income levels in many countries, including developing economies, has expanded the customer base susceptible to take a cruise. In light of this context, there is little evidence about the full extent of the market potential of the cruise industry and when a saturation point could be reached.