The record year further extends the success of the past 3 years which has seen a 50% increase in the number of cruise calls to Ireland.
Details of the record numbers were released by Cruise Ireland during its attendance at Seatrade Cruise Global, the world’s largest expo for the cruise industry which is taking place this week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Cruise Ireland, an All-Ireland Marketing cooperative, made up from the island’s ports, shipping agents, excursion companies and visitor attractions, however, believes that there is scope for even greater significant increases in the number of cruise ship visits.
Speaking at Seatrade, Joe O’Neill, current Chairman of Cruise Ireland and Belfast Harbour’s Commercial Director, said: “In the past 10 years the island of Ireland has outperformed the European market place; recording average annual growth in cruise passenger numbers of 13% against the European average across the same period of 9%. Feedback from cruise lines on their experience of visiting Ireland is very positive and encouragingly the cruise industry is projecting that demand for Ireland as a cruise destination will continue with a 14% growth forecast to 2020.”
“The island of Ireland continues to deliver world class experiences for the international cruise visitor and with Titanic Belfast recently being voted as the world’s leading tourist attraction we have a broad range of world class, must see attractions, right across the island i.e. Guinness Storehouse, Blarney Castle, Giant’s Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher to name but a few. Awareness of Ireland as a cruise destination has grown significantly in recent years however we are confident that by aligning our marketing efforts with the international marketing campaigns managed by the island’s national tourism agencies – Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and Tourism NI, that there is a huge opportunity for us to reach an even wider cruise audience.”
Currently most cruise ships to the island call at ports in the major cities of Dublin, Belfast and Cork, but smaller ports such as Galway, Derry-Londonderry, Waterford, Killybegs and Dun Laoghaire are also attracting calls, spreading the economic impact of the cruise industry across the whole island.
Mr O’Neill added: “The members of Cruise Ireland have been attending Seatrade for over 21 years now and we are realising the fruits of our efforts with the 300+ calls the island will receive this year. It is essential that we are here to ensure that the potential of the island is raised among each of the Executives from the Cruise Lines represented at this conference to make sure that Ireland remains firmly fixed as a destination of choice offering multiple calls in close proximity and ultimately an exceptional visitor experience.”
Cruise ships calling at Irish ports range from the largest vessels operating in Europe such as the Royal Princess with over 5,000 passengers and crew to smaller expedition and luxury vessels with just 50 passengers.