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Australians are the world’s number one cruise-goers by far

Andrew Munro 1 August 2017 NEWS

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It's a great time to be a cruiser.

When you see cruise ships come to Australia, your first thought is probably that they're bringing overseas tourists. That may have been a safe bet years ago, but these days it's far more likely that they're here to pick up Aussie travellers.

According to market research from Cruise Lines International, Australians are now the keenest cruise-goers anywhere in the world by a very large margin, thanks to an incredible decade of growth, of almost 20% year-on-year average growth since 2007. As a result, the number of Australian cruise-goers has more than quadrupled since 2008.

2015-2016 was an especially good year, breaking all previous Australian records, with 222,378 more travellers taking to the seas than the year before.

The world number one

After all that ongoing growth (and a relatively low total population), it's no surprise that Australians are now the world's number one cruisers, with over than 1 in 20 Australians taking a cruise holiday in 2016. This completely eclipses Australia's nearest competition, the USA, which saw a still-impressive 3.6% of residents take a cruise in 2016.

And even though China saw an 89% increase in cruise passengers between 2015 and 2016, it's still just a blip on the radar compared to the total population.

To date, Australia is the only country that's ever seen more than 4% of residents take a cruise in a single year.

However, it might not be too long before the picture changes again. Even though Australia has seen consistent double-digit growth for a straight decade, it's far from the biggest single year increase. China in particular saw an unprecedented 89% more passengers taking cruises in 2016 compared to 2015, while New Zealanders also headed abroad in larger numbers, with 36% more taking a cruise in 2016.

All around the world, cruising has become incredibly popular over the last few years.

Why are so many people suddenly taking cruises?

Much like airlines, many cruise lines have a range of sales and discounts to bring in passengers. They get early bookings with cheaper early-bird deals, fill up remaining space with last-minute sales and run other periodic sales to draw more business. Whether you're flying or sailing, you'll generally be travelling on a near-full vessel.

With plenty of demand to go around, it's mostly about how much capacity is available. Now that it's clear there are plenty of eager travellers, cruise lines aren't holding back on the new ships. Disney, for example, recently upsized an order of two new cruise ships to three, while Marriott is planning to branch out from hotels with three new luxury cruise yachts, due to set sail in 2019.

There are plenty of new ships coming out in this year and the next as cruise lines try to keep up with the world's seemingly insatiable demand, including the biggest cruise ship ever made. With more vessels crossing the ocean, you're going to see similar growth for years to come.

Where are Australians cruising to?

There are consistently more people taking cruises, but tastes change over time. Some destinations are shrinking in popularity while others are steadily climbing the ranks.

The most popular by far are the affordable-yet-exotic South Pacific cruises, which also saw considerable growth from 2015-2016, while shorter and cheaper Australia trips also remain popular, and saw more modest growth.

Meanwhile, immense multi-month around-the-world cruises weren't the most popular, but saw an increase of more than 80% between 2015 and 2016. This might be largely down to increasing affordability in recent years.

Alaska, similarly, became a much more popular destination, with about 25% more Australians heading to Australia's polar opposite in 2016 than in 2015.

Overall, the South Pacific attracted 42.4% of all Australian cruise-goers in 2016, while close-to-home Australia and New Zealand trips got 26% and 8.3% of Australian travellers.

Despite shrinking popularity, Europe and Asia still pulled 7% and 6.7% of the Australian cruise market, well ahead of Alaska's 3.3%, and far beyond Mexico, South America which only received less than 0.5% of Australian cruise travellers in 2016.

It's an all-around rosy picture for Australian travellers. The country's prominence on the world cruise stage will see a lot more ships making their way down under, and more providers competing for their share of enthusiastic cruisers. It's safe to say that you can expect the cruise discounts to keep rolling out for a few years yet.

If you want to know when the best cruise deals come around, or just want more Australian travel news, feel free to subscribe below and get it delivered right to your inbox.

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