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Cruise industry worldwide - statistics & facts

Cruises make up part of the global travel industry, and operate in various regions across the globe, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. In recent years, the global cruise industry revenue grew to over 27 billion U.S. dollars, though travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit this sector hard in 2020. The United States, with its long coastlines and access to many nearby ports in the tropical Caribbean Sea, is the world’s leader in cruise revenue. Prior to the pandemic, U.S. cruise industry revenue was over four times higher than that of Germany, the second leading market. In 2020, the U.S. was still the market leader, but revenue declined by roughly 12 billion U.S. dollars over the previous year. Overall, although travel booking services are moving increasingly online in this segment, offline sales remain the dominant sales channel for the global cruise industry, with just under one-quarter of cruise industry revenue coming from online channels.

Cruise passenger demographics

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic disrupted the cruise market in 2020. Effects of the pandemic have continued to put the entire global travel and tourism industry on hold, and this can be evidenced in the large drop in the number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide in 2020. Though cruise passenger numbers previously increased from 17.8 million in 2009 to roughly 30 million ten years later, there were under six million passengers in 2020. Most of the cruise passengers worldwide come from North America, with about half as many hailing from Western Europe. As the cruise industry further adjusts to incorporate health and safety measures for its passengers, the islands of the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Bermuda have remained top destinations for cruises worldwide, even though cruise travelers fell dramatically due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Northern Europe and the Central and Western Mediterranean also recorded a remarkable decline in passengers.

What are the leading cruise companies worldwide?

Today’s global cruise market is dominated by a handful of U.S.-based players, namely Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line. Carnival made up nearly half of the worldwide market share of cruise companies in 2021, while Royal Caribbean took up a quarter of the global market share. Although Royal Caribbean Cruises operates some of the largest cruise ships worldwide, the brand’s top competitor Carnival Corporation remains the leading global cruise company in terms of revenue. In 2020, the global revenue of Carnival Corporation & plc stood at 5.6 billion U.S. dollars, denoting a sharp drop year-over-year due to the pandemic. While ticket sales generated the highest income in 2020, revenue from tours and onshore excursions ceased altogether that year, as such activities were severely restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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