The cruise industry hosted a record 24.7 million ocean passengers around the globe last year, according to new data released by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Tuesday.
The figure topped projections by 500,000 and is up from 23.2 million in 2015.
The Caribbean was the most popular destination for ocean cruisers last year, accounting for a 35 percent share of capacity. Next came the Mediterranean (18.3 percent) and Europe (11.1 percent) while Asia (9.2 percent), Australia/New Zealand/Pacific (6.1 percent) Alaska (4.2 percent) and South America (2.5 percent) rounded out the seven most-visited regions in 2016.
CLIA credits the positive growth to continued development in the Asian market as well as more than two dozen new ships joining its fleet in 2016, including nine new ocean vessels. The 26 new cruise ships introduced last year expanded passenger capacity by 28,000.
According to CLIA, capacity in Asia climbed to 9.2 percent last year, representing a 38 percent increase from 2015. What’s more, Asian travelers are taking shorter cruises and taking them more frequently the trade association has found.
Beyond the booming Asian market and an ever-expanding fleet, CLIA president and CEO Cindy D’Aoust attributes the industry’s growth to its ability to provide travelers with exactly what they’re looking for.
“One of the many reasons that the cruise industry continues to thrive is because of the personalization it is able to offer to its guests from around the world,” D’Aoust said in a statement. “Never before have I been a part of or seen an industry that is so good at listening and reacting to what its customers want, and this is why we are going to see our industry continue to grow.”
As TravelPulse cruise expert Jason Leppert points out, cruise lines are also winning over the all-important millennial market with exciting onboard attractions and kid facilities for younger passengers traveling with children.
Unsurprisingly, CLIA projects another year of encouraging growth on the ocean: The association is forecasting 25.8 million global passengers for 2017.