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British ports encountered record cruise activity in 2023

PHOTO: VISITBRITAIN British-ports-record-year-2024-cruise-britain.jpg
Bamburgh Castle and Northumberland coast: Historical attractions are increasingly complemented by outdoor/adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences
At British ports, the number of cruise calls and passengers reached a record high in 2023 – and the growth trajectory is set to continue.  

Statistics from Cruise Britain show there were 2,499 calls across the year, pushing the previous 2019 record into second place.

The number of cruise passenger embarkations at a UK port exceeded 1.5m for the first time – a 26% increase compared to 2018, the last record year for passenger numbers. 

Transit calls

In terms of transit passengers, ports in Britain welcomed 2.16m guests representing 24% more than in 2019, the previous record year.

With each transit passenger worth a conservative average of £70 to the local tourism economy, the figures imply an injection of around £150m to Britain’s coastal economies in addition to the economic benefits brought directly through cruise line and port operations. 

In a boost to the inbound tourism economy, early figures show that over three-quarters of transit passengers were non-UK nationals with key markets being the USA and Germany.

500% rise in transit calls

‘The popularity of cruises into and round Britain shines even more brightly than it did pre-Covid,’ said Ian McQuade, chair, Cruise Britain. ‘Cruise is now an important part of the tourism landscape for many ports and destinations, and we are seeing the rewards for an industry that has consistently worked together to recover, regenerate and develop.’ 

He continued, ‘Whilst round-Britain and Ireland cruise popularity continues to grow, there is a very strong success story for British port calls as part of a multi-country chain of discovery. As Cruise Britain celebrates the association’s 15th birthday, a look back into the archives shows a doubling of call numbers and embarkations, plus a tremendous 500% increase in transit passengers since 2009.’ 

Growth to continue

‘Looking ahead to this year, we see the growth trajectory continuing with England’s south coast and Scotland continuing to underpin national cruise growth,’ explained McQuade. ‘Regional ports in all four of our nations reported record 2023 figures and all will look to build on that growth.’ 

Last year, cruise passengers arrived for the day or embarked through 57 cruise ports aboard 123 ships, with the vast majority of vessels calling on multiple occasions. 

53 different cruise lines were welcomed in UK ports varying from city centre locations to small coastal towns. Cruise port and cruise line numbers are broadly in line with 2022. 

‘The UK continues to offer and expand our incredibly diverse cruise holiday experience for guests and this is one of the most powerful reasons for the growth that we are seeing,’ added McQuade. Historical attractions – a strength for tourism in Britain – are now complemented by outdoor/adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences. 

‘Cruise Britain and all its members continue to work with cruise lines, industry partners and stakeholders, and government to support the development of cruise as a resilient and profitable sector of the travel industry,' McQuade stated. 

TAGS: Britain