In his opening address at the start of Seatrade Europe in Hamburg today, ECC chairman Pier Luigi Foschi predicted the figure would grow to 4.8m by 2014.
With current cruise passenger counts representing just 1% of the overall holiday market compared to 4% in North America and Europe's population being of an equal size (plus Europeans get more holidays), 'the European cruise market has all the right ingredients to grow further,' Foschi added. He observed the 5% growth recorded between 2003 and 2004 was limited by capacity constraints -- 'simply not enough new capacity was introduced to match demand.'
Commentating on the supply/demand issue Carnival UK chairman David Dingle predicted 4.6m Europeans would cruise by 2010 although, based on newbuild capacity currently on order, the figure might only reach 4.1m. However, Dingle advised not to underestimate British passengers travelling on UK-based North American ships - a trend which started this year and is set to continue. 'This could result in 12% annual growth in the British market to 1.7m or even 1.8m passengers by 2010,' he stated.
Europe's second largest source market, Germany, is expected to reach the one million mark by the end of the decade. According to AIDA Cruises president Michael Thamm, 640,000 Germans will cruise this year , rising to 700,000 in 2006. Penetration stands at 0.7% of the overall holiday market compared to a 42.4% penetration enjoyed by the tour operator sector, he added.
Referring to the European cruise market as 'still in its infancy,' Foschi described the 10% average growth recorded annually for the past decade as 'remarkable'. Foschi spoke of the work underway at the ECC, two years old next April and with 20 member lines. 'It is essential for the European cruise market to have a cohesive voice in front of the EU,' he urged.