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As the $1 billion Celebrity Edge gets set to make its European maiden voyage next week, the latest research from Mintel reveals that over the next five years the number of cruise holidays is forecast to grow faster than the total number of overseas holidays.

Between 2018 and 2023, the number of sea cruise holidays taken by British and Irish travellers is forecast to grow at 22.5%, compared to a 14.8% rise in the number of overseas holidays over the same five year period. Such is the popularity of life on a liner, that this year 2.04 million British and Irish passengers are expected to embark on a sea cruise.

Overall, the UK and Ireland sea cruise market is estimated to reach £3.2 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, total UK holiday spend is forecast at £32.1 billion in 2019.

What is more, the lure of the cruise is set to continue: Mintel research reveals that as many as 46% of Brits say they are interested in taking a sea cruise in the next five years, while 45% are interested in taking a river cruise. Overall, one in four (26%) Brits have been on a cruise.

Marloes De Vries, Mintel Travel Analyst, said:

“Over the coming years, the UK cruise market is expected to grow at a faster pace than the total overseas holiday market. Growth is expected to be fuelled by an increasing number of cruise choices, modernisation of existing ships, and the large pool of people who are considering a cruise holiday. Consumers are becoming more open to experiencing things they have never done before. For many, a cruise holiday offers something different and special, which adds to the appeal. Given most potential cruisers have not experienced this type of holiday before, brands offering specialist knowledge and advice have a great opportunity to engage with this audience.”

Younger generation shows highest level of interest in taking a sea cruise

Whilst once the holiday choice of those enjoying their golden years, Mintel research reveals that it is, in fact, the young who are most likely to be interested in taking to the seas. Some 38% of those who are interested in taking a sea cruise in the next five years are aged 16-34, while 34% are aged 35-54 and 28% are aged 55+. But while a sea cruise is less appealing to more mature holidaymakers, the river seems a more attractive option as a third (33%) of Brits aged 55+ are interested in taking a river cruise in the next five years.

It seems over-55s have by far the highest expectations with regard to what should be included in an all-inclusive cruise holiday. In particular, they expect food (94% of 55+ vs 68% of 16-34s) and non-alcoholic beverages (91% of 55+ vs 61% of 16-34s) to be included in the overall price. Meanwhile, young people are more interested in staying connected, with 42% of 16-34s saying free wi-fi would encourage them to pick one cruise holiday over another.

“Cruises were once thought of as the preserve of retirees, but there’s now plenty of potential to tap into a younger generation of cruise goers. Some cruise lines have already introduced more activities to attract a younger audience such as rooftop BBQs and tattoo artists. The fact that younger people aged 16-34 expect far fewer products/services to be included in the price for a cruise holiday presents an opportunity to offer this group more flexible price tiers.” Adds Marloes.

The best of both worlds – high interest in cruise-and-stay holidays

Mintel research concludes that a cruise-and-stay holiday has great potential to introduce first-timers to cruise holidays. Half (47%) of those who have never taken a cruise before would consider combining a cruise holiday with a stay-in accommodation on land. Interest among this group is much higher than among those who have cruise experience (37%).

The biggest barrier to cruising appears to be cost, as six in ten (61%) Brits who have never cruised before believe cruises are too expensive. Meanwhile, 30% of non cruisemakers think that cruises do not offer them enough flexibility to do their own thing. Finally, the prospect of the ships being too crowded is off-putting to one in five (23%) who have never taken a cruise.

“Cruises carry a poor image when it comes to offering good value for money. Cruise brands that are interested in broadening their audience could combat the perception of being too expensive by highlighting budget options, by adding more variety in the look and feel of marketing materials, and by emphasising the added value of a cruise holiday. Operators should also consider offering different price tiers or removing products/services from the basic costs, something which is most likely to appeal to younger consumers.” Marloes concludes.