State of the Cruise Industry Outlook: Continued Evolution of Cruise Travel Drives Industry Growth

Dec 01, 2015

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released the 2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook, revealing global cruise travel is continuing to grow and evolve at a record pace.

The industry shows no signs of slowing down, with 24 million passengers expected to sail in 2016, a dramatic increase from 15 million just 10 years prior (2006), or even 1.4 million when CLIA began tracking passengers in 1980. CLIA also revealed Member cruise lines are scheduled to debut 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships in 2016 for a total investment of more than $6.5 billion in new ocean vessels alone. Travel agents are also experiencing a higher demand for cruise travel. Eight out of ten CLIA member travel agents stated they are expecting an increase in sales in 2016 over last year.

“In an effort to make cruising the best overall vacation experience available, the industry is continuing to evolve to ensure there truly is a cruise for every travel style and budget,” said Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA Acting CEO. “By creating unique ships, new experiences and access to destinations around the world, the evolution, appeal and value of cruise travel continues to drive the overall growth of the industry.”

Cruising also generates a substantial positive economic impact globally. Cruise industry expenditures generated $119.9 billion in total output worldwide, supporting 939,232 full-time equivalent employees who earned $39.3 billion in income in 2014.

Following are the Lucky 13 Cruise Industry Trends showcasing how the cruise industry has transformed to meet today’s travelers’ styles and preferences:

  1. Rise of the River Cruise – River cruises are growing in popularity, introducing the value and unique travel experience to new cruise travelers. CLIA Cruise Line Members currently deploy 170 river cruise ships with 18 new river cruise ships on order for 2016, an increase of more than 10 percent.
  2. More Ships, More Options – As of 2016, there are a total of 448 cruise ships in the global fleet of CLIA Cruise Line Members which includes 27 new ocean, river and specialty ships scheduled to debut throughout the year in 2016.
  3. On the Map – Five years ago, cruise travel was almost unheard of in Asia. Today, the region is the fastest growing in the cruise industry. Between 2012 and 2014, passenger volume grew from 775,000 to nearly 1.4 million passengers, a 34 percent compound annual growth rate.
  4. G’Day for a Cruise – While Asia continues to grow rapidly, Australia also continues to experience record growth. In fact, Australia’s cruise industry surpassed a major milestone in 2014, exceeding more than one million passengers in a calendar year. In ten years, Australia’s cruise passengers have grown more than six-fold, from a base of 158,000 in 2004.
  5. Cruise Specialists – The cruise industry continues to leverage the expertise of cruise specialists to help guide travel decisions. Today, there are more than 30,000 CLIA-Member Travel Agents globally compared to 12,000 travel agents in 2010.
  6. Connectivity and Cruising – The cruise industry has made consumers’ desire to stay connected while traveling a priority. Most of today’s cruises offer a myriad of Wi-Fi, onboard texting and data options.
  7. A Love for Luxe – The desire for luxury travel continues to rise. Specialty cruise lines are responding with yachting experiences, concierge services, exclusive tours, gourmet dining and personal butler service.
  8. Brands at Sea – Cruise lines are leveraging the cross-promotional appeal of brands to appeal to new cruise travelers. From family-friendly household names like LEGO and Dr. Seuss, to upscale luxury brands like Hermes and Veuve Clicquot Champagne, and even dining options like Johnny Rockets and Margaritaville, brands are setting sail on cruise lines.
  9. Ships Are the Destination – While cruise ships were once considered a mode of transportation to get to a desired destination, today, for many, a cruise ship offers the experience of a destination. Today’s latest ships offer unprecedented onboard experiences and amenities for travelers, from Broadway productions and designer shops to zip lining and bumper cars.
  10. Stay the Night – Many cruise lines are offering overnight stays at designated ports of call to give cruisers an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the experiences available at the destination.
  11. Grand(parent) Travel Experiences – Intergenerational cruising has become a popular selection for family reunions or the family vacation of a lifetime. With cruise amenities designed to satisfy every age from toddler to seniors, cruises provide the togetherness (and the independence) that makes intergenerational family travel a success.
  12. Cruise Voluntourism – More “voluntourism” cruises are available in 2016 with several ships including excursions to help areas of need around the world. These service-oriented cruises offer a wonderful opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the communities cruise ships visit and a rare experience to embrace and impact local culture.
  13. Culturally Customized – Cruise lines are continuing to customize cruise ships based upon passenger cultures. From shopping and dining preferences, vessels are being outfitted to serve guests as well as pay homage to their ports of call.

An infographic on the State of the Cruise Industry is available at

About Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) – One Industry, One Voice

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community. As the largest cruise industry trade association with 15 offices globally, CLIA has representation in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. CLIA's mission is to support policies and practices that foster a safe, secure and healthy cruise ship environment for the more than 23 million passengers who cruise annually, as well as to promote the value, desirability and affordability of the cruise vacation experience. Members are comprised of the world's most prestigious ocean, river and specialty cruise lines; a highly trained and certified travel agent community; and cruise line suppliers and partners, including ports & destinations, ship development, suppliers and business services, committed to the sustained success of the cruise industry. For more information, visit or follow Cruise Lines International Association on CLIA Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Research Sources**

  • 2014 Economic Impact Analysis commissioned by CLIA and conducted by Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA)
  • 2016 Forecast based upon historical relationship between yearly capacity increase and yearly passenger increase
  • Cruise Outlook Survey – North America Travel Agent Research Panel – Full report to be released late December 2015
  • 2014 Asia Cruise Trends Study commissioned by CLIA

* CLIA cruise line Member cruise ships

Press Contacts

Travel Industry & Marketing

Sarah Kennedy – Manager, Public Relations & Marketing
Tel: 202-759-9313 | Cell: 703-628-7389 

Industry Policies/Regulatory & Legislative Issues

Christina Perez – Specialist, Public Affairs
Tel: 202-759-9326 | Cell: 202-320-6876