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Demand for expedition cruises increases in UK, ECN survey shows

Launched in April 2023, the Expedition Cruise Network now has 23 expedition cruise line members and over 1,350 travel trade members
Some 67% of expedition cruise operators that are members of the Expedition Cruise Network saw UK bookings rise in the first half of 2024 compared to 2023.

Over a quarter reported seeing the UK market growing ‘significantly faster’ or ‘more’ than other international markets, and 100% declared UK market growth a priority in 2024. 

As part of the ECN’s half yearly review, one member reported an 88% overall increase in bookings year-on-year from December to the beginning of June 2024, and another, a three-digit percentage growth in bookings for Antarctica in February 2024 compared to February 2023.


General trends include an increase in group requests, a greater interest in longer trips, activity programmes and luxury/wellness experiences with others experiencing record-breaking sales weeks in Q1.

Polar destinations, particularly Antarctica, are still growing in popularity, but members mentioned strong interest in Iceland, Scotland, Indonesia/Melanesia, ‘Fly the Drake’ itineraries and the Galapagos.

Sustainable travel a priority

The majority of ECN cruise operator members saw concern for climate change, environment and wildlife unchanged since last year, however the issues provided the greatest number of comments in the ECN review. Clients of some ECN members have explicitly voiced their concerns and their desire for sustainable travel options. 

All ECN members have sustainability plans, with policies and practices that include, but are not restricted to, commitments to carbon reduction, conservation and citizen science programmes, and responsible wildlife viewing opportunities.

ECN’s chair and co-founder Martin Johnson said, ‘To reflect the growth of the expedition cruise sector in the UK, we’re delighted to present the Expedition Cruise Network six-monthly review of 2024, which has seen two roadshows, a burgeoning programme of training webinars; the launch of two new training bootcamps; the launch of an Antarctica Selling Guide...This has been an incredible six-months for the expedition cruise sector in the UK and we are keen to progress and support our members and the trade that sells the products in the most sustainable way possible.’

The ECN will host its first dedicated expedition cruise conference in October.

TAGS: UK & Ireland