CLIA: 2010 passenger numbers up 10.3%

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Florida, the Cruise State

If the state of Florida ever tires of its nickname, “The Sunshine State,” it might consider “The Cruise State.”

Florida’s five cruise ports — Miami, Port Everglades, Port Canaveral, Tampa and Jacksonville — handled 5.8 million embarkations in 2010, according to CLIA’s 2010 economic report. That represents close to 60% of all cruise embarkations in the U.S.

Florida also is home to corporate or administrative offices for the top three cruise companies, which own three-fourths of the North American cruise capacity: Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and NCL Corp.

The big three employ nearly 14,000 people, representing 55% of U.S. cruise industry employment, the report found.

Moreover, Floridians themselves are big cruisers. The state leads the nation in resident cruise passengers with 2.9 million cruisers, amounting to 29% of all U.S. passengers.
 

— Donna Tunney 

As the global economy sputtered out of recession in fits and starts last year, the cruise industry racked up a significant gain in passenger numbers.

A CLIA research report, “The Contribution of the North American Cruise Industry to the U.S. Economy in 2010,” found that the group’s member lines carried 14.8 million passengers, an increase of 10.3%. That amounts to the biggest year-over-year jump since 2003.

But even with the embarkation bonanza, passenger revenues during the recovery year were slightly less than prerecession levels, the report said.

Even so, the results suggest a resiliency that could turn other industry segments green with envy.

It might seem reasonable to assume that the passenger spike was attributable, at least in part, to a large jump in inventory: The nine ships that entered service in 2010 on top of a bevy of large ships that had been launched a few years earlier, as the recession was creeping up.

But CLIA’s leadership takes a different view.

Bob Sharak, the association’s executive vice president of marketing and distribution, said: “Awareness of the ships increased enthusiasm in cruising with the public and increased the confidence among the cruise lines that ship capacity and demand, even in these difficult times, are in strategic alignment.”

The 2010 newbuilds included two of the largest cruise ships ever constructed: Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,100-passenger Norwegian Epic and Royal Caribbean’s 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas. The Allure’s sister ship, the Oasis of the Seas, entered service in late 2009, so 2010 was also its first full year of operation.

Other notable launches in 2010 included Cunard’s 2,100-passenger Queen Elizabeth and Holland America Line’s 2,100-passenger Nieuw Amsterdam.

At the close of 2010, CLIA members were operating 176 ocean-going ships with a total lower berth capacity of 307,707, an 8% increase over 2009.

In the five cruise seasons between 2005 and 2010, some 72,000 lower berths came on the market. With so much new capacity in the second half of the decade, passenger revenues took a hit in 2010.

The report stated that revenues per passenger declined by 1.3%, to $1,620, and revenues per passenger day dropped by 1.2%, to $223. However, these rates of decline were well below the 2009 declines and resulted from slight decreases in both cruise fares and onboard revenues on a per-passenger basis.

Overall, the report said, global gross revenues increased last year by 8.9%, to $24 billion.

Sharak said last year’s revenue results followed an 11.3% decline in 2009, “and so revenues did not quite make it back to the $24.9 billion mark of 2008.”

The modest decreases in per-passenger revenue and onboard spending did not dampen the positive outlook of CLIA CEO Christine Duffy.

“As a global industry, cruise lines have managed to navigate through some tough economic times that have made vacationing decisions for millions of people more difficult,” Duffy said. “Our members have also worked through adversity created by geopolitical events and natural disasters.”

She added: “It is great to see the progress that was made in 2010, and this economic study demonstrates that the travel industry, and cruising in particular, matter to our economy.”

As is the case every year, the report provides economic impact data by state, concluding that “the North American cruise industry generated 329,943 jobs that contributed a $15.2 billion wage impact on the U.S. economy in 2010.”

Those numbers reflect a 5.1% increase in employment and a 7% rise in wages compared with 2009.

“These job numbers are good news, given the challenging economy,” said CLIA Chairman Howard Frank. “We are pleased with the strong gains in the cruise industry’s economic contributions and that CLIA member lines were directly or indirectly responsible for putting nearly 330,000 Americans to work.”

Every state benefited, thanks to $18 billion in direct cruise industry spending nationwide, CLIA reported.

Business Research & Economic Advisors, based in Exton, Pa., produced the report for CLIA.

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