A new report has confirmed that Australia's cruise industry growth continues to lead the world, with passenger numbers surging 11 per cent last year to hit a record high of 694,062.
For the second consecutive year, the growth of the Australian cruise passenger market has surpassed other major cruise markets, with last year's 11 per cent increase equalled only by Germany. By comparison, North American passenger numbers grew by 2 per cent in 2012 and the UK remained steady.
The 2012 Australian Cruise Industry Report also shows that the local industry now has the second highest population penetration rate in the world, with the equivalent of 3 per cent of Australians taking a cruise last year. Only the long-established North American cruise market had a higher penetration rate at 3.3 per cent.
Releasing the report in Sydney today, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia's Chairman Gavin Smith said 2012 was the eighth consecutive year of double digit growth for cruise passenger numbers, underlining Australians' increasing enthusiasm for cruising.
"In only four years, the number of Australians taking a cruise holiday has more than doubled from 330,290 in 2008 to almost 700,000, while over the past decade we've seen an average annual growth rate of 20 per cent - a remarkable result for any industry," Mr Smith said.
"Clearly Australians are responding to the growing number of cruise holidays on offer from Australian ports, as well as our strong dollar, which is encouraging more people to cruise overseas.
"There's also an increasing awareness among Australian holidaymakers about the tremendous value of cruising and the wide range of cruise holidays available, from relaxing river cruises to fun family breaks and adventurous expedition voyages."
Mr Smith said while the outlook for the cruise industry remained buoyant, a focus on appropriate port infrastructure and supportive government policies would be crucial to the continued growth of Australian passenger numbers.
The 2012 report includes its first breakdown of cruise passenger age, which reveals almost half of Australian cruise passengers in 2012 were under the age of 50, while a quarter were aged under 40 and one-third were over 61 years.
The report also found 43 per cent of cruise passengers came from New South Wales in 2012, while Queensland accounted for 22 per cent, Victoria 16 per cent and Western Australia 9 per cent. On a per capita basis, the Australian Capital Territory had the highest population penetration rate with 5.5 per cent of residents cruising, while NSW followed with 4.1 per cent and Queensland with 3.3 per cent.
Meanwhile, a new insight into the passenger mix onboard roundtrip cruises from Australia as well as transTasman and transPacific cruises shows Australians accounted for 84 per cent of passengers on those voyages, with international travellers representing 16 per cent, or close to 100,000 passengers.
Other key findings of the CLIA Australasia 2012 Australian Cruise Industry Report include:
• The most popular destination for Australian passengers was the South Pacific which accounted for 36.4 per cent of the market in 2012 (252,555 passengers)
• Europe is now the biggest fly-cruise market for Australians with passenger numbers rising 26 per cent to 57,719 (8.3 per cent of the market)
• River cruising numbers continue to expand with 12 per cent more passengers (39,275) opting for this niche holiday experience
• The Caribbean achieved the highest growth rate with a 36 per cent rise to 17,316 Australian passengers
• Collectively, US destinations including Alaska and the Caribbean account for 8.3 per cent of the market (57,396 passengers)
• Shorter cruises of 1-4 days experienced the greatest growth in 2012 rising 38 per cent, with 76,719 Australians opting for a short break cruise.