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Cruises attract younger passengers
DESPITE appearances, Carnival Corporation’s surprise profits warning yesterday is unlikely to derail the sustained growth in passenger numbers seen in the cruise industry in recent years

Cruise liner profits tend to go up and down from year to year, but the number of passengers keeps on rising as the industry increasingly targets younger customers and European, British and American populations become richer.

In Britain, for example, the number of people taking cruises has risen more than four-fold since 1992, from 273,000 to 1.2 million last year, according to the Passenger Shipping Association. It is not just Britons who are taking to cruises: the number of Spanish passengers rose by 26 per cent last year to 379,000, while the number of Italians increased by 28 per cent to 514,000.

However, the Americans lead the way. They accounted for 8.9 million, or 66 per cent, of the 13.4 million global passengers in 2004, the most recent year for which such data are available.

Elizabeth Osur, an analyst at Citigroup, said: “Cruise liners like Carnival can attract a much younger crowd and multigenerational trips are becoming much more common. There are certainly opportunities to expand further into the younger market.”

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet, is seeking to tap the growing youth interest in cruising with the launch this summer of easyCruise, which will offer two routes: one in the French and Italian rivieras and the other around Amsterdam.

Events such as the September 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina or even the impact of high petrol prices on the average American wallet will often leave the operators with excess supply and they have to bring their prices down to sell the remaining tickets. Ms Osur said: “Looking through the annual profits, they range a lot because prices are highly sensitive to supply.”

After a slump after 9/11, prices had been in “recovery mode” until a few months ago.

Micky Arison, Carnival’s chief executive, said yesterday that it had begun to cut prices in response to lower-than- expected demand for cruises in the Caribbean. No doubt the price cuts will further boost passenger growth, but it does not bode well for its profit growth.

Date: 22-5-2006 (d-m-j)Email us your reaction

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