In 2008/2009, the cruise industry was impacted by many of the same challenges facing all businesses, but unlike other segments of the travel market, cruising, with an impressive history of recession-resistance, had several advantages. These include vessel mobility and redeployment (arguably the most important advantage), the ability to quickly adapt to change, effective expense management, and, a product with the highest perceived value for money spent. Not surprisingly, CLIA member lines were able to drive consumer demand and operate at full capacity throughout the most challenging months.
Another indication that brighter days are on the horizon was this week's announcement by Carnival Corporation that its Board of Directors voted to resume its quarterly dividend, which was suspended in March 2009. The board declared a dividend of $0.10 per share and approved a record date of Feb 19, 2010, and a payment date of March 12, 2010. Micky Arison, Carnival Corporation chairman and CEO said, "Resuming the quarterly dividend demonstrates our confidence in the earnings power of our global cruise brands despite the current economic environment."
However, in spite of the economic turmoil of 2009, the cruise industry continued to grow. A total of 13.445 million passengers are forecast to have sailed last year (totals through the third quarter, 2009—9,999,068 passengers—indicate that forecast is on track), U.S. and Canadian residents accounted for 76.5 percent of guests, with 23.5 percent sourced internationally. Most notably, volume of international guests has been growing consistently. In 2000, less than 10% of the guests sailing on CLIA member cruise lines were sourced to international markets. The CLIA fleet (collectively among all 25 member cruise lines) in 2009 sailed at an average occupancy of 104.4 percent, with an average length of cruise of 7.2 days. In short, passenger volume continues to keep pace with capacity.
CLIA forecasts a total of 14.3 million passengers in 2010—10.7 million from North America and 3.6 million sourced internationally. This represents a total increase of passengers of 855,000 or 6.4 percent growth.
After introducing 14 new ships representing a total investment of $4.7 billion in 2009, the CLIA fleet will invest an additional $6.5 billion and welcome 12 new vessels this year. Significantly, the new ships continue to reflect the diversity of ships and cruise experiences available to the traveling public, ranging in capacity from 101 passengers to 5,400 passengers and built for everything from roaming the globe in sheer luxury to sailing the waters of Europe's most famous rivers and the coastlines of North America.
CLIA was founded in 1975 to serve the needs of a small, new venture—the transformation of increasingly obsolete maritime transatlantic travel into trend-setting leisure vacationing. The industry's story is one of impressive growth—118 new ships since 2000, and, since 1980, average annual growth in passengers of 7.4 percent, despite numerous economic downturns and other obstacles. You can read the entire State of the Industry report on the CLIA web site.