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According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the “sea and coastal passenger transport” industry contributed £3.98 billion to the economy in approximate gross value added (aGVA) in 2019. This includes cruises as well as sea transport services such as passenger ferries and water taxis; it would not include hospitality activities on board when provided by separate units or port services. This industry supported 7,900 jobs in the UK in 2019, 57% of which were in the South East of England.

The Cruise Lines International Association reports that cruise industry contributes £10 billion to the UK economy each year and supports more than 88,000 jobs. These figures include direct and indirect economic output and employment. For example, it includes port services and supply chains such as food manufactured for consumption on cruise ships.

The global cruise industry is dominated by three major companies: Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

Cruise passenger statistics

The Department for Transport publish data on the number of passengers of cruises which begin or end their trip at a UK port. For much of the 20 years between 1970 and 1990 there were typically between 100,000-200,000 passengers of cruises annually. However, since 2000 the number of passengers on cruises has grown steadily – in 2018 passenger numbers reached 2.2 million.

Impact of Covid-19 pandemic

Like many businesses in the tourism and leisure sectors, the cruise industry has been hard-hit by the pandemic. The Cruise Lines International Association told the Transport Committee in December 2020 that pausing cruise operations between March and September 2020 caused £6.77 billion in lost expenditure and 52,659 jobs.

Domestic cruises – those that start and return to the UK – were able to re-start operating in England in May 2021, when the wider hospitality industry opened indoors. Domestic cruises could not dock in Scotland until 19 July 2021. International cruises could not restart from England until 2 August 2021, when the Government announced that fully vaccinated travellers from the US and Europe could travel to England from ‘amber’ countries without having the quarantine.

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