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Profile of the U.S. Cruise Industry

The cruise industry is the fastest growing segment of the travel industry – achieving more than 2,100 percent growth since 1970, when an estimated 500,000 people took a cruise. Industry estimates are that 13.5 million people took a cruise vacation in 2009, with a total of 14.3 million passengers forecasted to sail in 2010.

But that’s not all. CLIA reports that the cruise industry’s total economic benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.1 billion in 2009. The cruise industry generated nearly 314,000 American jobs, and direct spending by cruise lines and passengers on U.S. goods and services exceeded $17 billion.

The cruise industry’s growth is also reflected in its expanding guest capacity. Nearly 40 new ships were built in the 1980s and during the 1990s, nearly 80 new ships debuted. By the end of 2010, over 100 new ships were introduced since 2000, with seven new vessels on the way for 2011.

This strong growth has fueled the continuing evolution of the cruise vacation experience. Over the years, cruise lines have expanded itineraries to include more diverse ports of call and convenient embarkation ports and have also introduced innovative onboard amenities and facilities, including cell phone access, Internet cafes and wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) zones, rock-climbing walls, bowling alleys, surfing pools, multi-room villas, multiple themed restaurants and expansive spas, health and fitness facilities that easily rival land-based options.

The cruise industry’s commitment to adding new capacity is based on cruising’s tremendous growth potential. Because only approximately 20 percent of U.S. adults have ever taken a cruise vacation, there remains an enormous untapped market.

Cruise lines cater to a diverse demographic mix. Cruisers average 46 years of age, with above-average ($93,000) annual household income. Cruise vacations attract travelers from every state in the nation and from every province in Canada. The states producing the most cruise passengers are Florida, California, Texas, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona and Georgia.

Ninety percent of all cruise vacations are booked through travel agents, and cruise sales account for more than half of all vacation sales among travel agents.