THE extraordinary growth of the Australian cruise industry has been highlighted in a new report which reveals that the number of Australians taking a cruise holiday surged by a record 34% last year to reach a record high of 623,294.
Compiled by the International Cruise Council Australasia, the 2011 Australian Cruise Industry Report provides the first breakdown of cruise passengers by state, with Queensland residents ranking as the second- biggest cruise market, accounting for 24% of passenger numbers.
New South Wales was the highest, accounting for 40% of the total number of Australian cruise passengers.
Overall, the growth in Australian cruise passenger numbers in 2011 outstripped all other major international markets.
The report said the number of Australians taking a cruise had almost tripled over the past five years. Launching the 2011 report, ICCA Chairman Gavin Smith said the latest figures cemented cruising's status as the shining star of the tourism industry, with the Australian cruise market leading the world in terms of growth.
"While other industries have waivered in these tough economic times, cruising has continued to expand, with its popularity in Australia growing significantly year-on-year," Mr Smith said.
"Every year, we are seeing more cruise ships based in Australia and more ships visiting our shores, taking the profile of cruising to new heights and prompting an unprecedented number of Australians to take to the seas for their holidays."
Mr Smith attributed Queenslanders' love of cruising to the increasing number of cruise ships based in Brisbane and visiting the state's many ports, as well as growing awareness of the great value that cruise holidays offered.
The South Pacific retained its position as the most popular destination for Australians, attracting 37% of passengers.
The number of Australians cruising to New Zealand surged by 80% to 84,013, reflecting an increase in the number of trans-Tasman cruises.