Market Insight
SPRING 2018

Annual report
Year 2018

Market Insight
FALL 2018

Market Insight
WINTER 2018-2019

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• With 346 active cruise vessels, Europe has the largest river cruise fleet in the world, compared to other continents.
• Despite the lower newbuilding rates, the expansion of the fleet also continued in 2017, with 17 new vessels coming on the market.
• The traffic figures of cruise vessels on the Rhine were 20% higher in 2017 than the previous year. Despite this notable increase, the Rhine remains in 2nd position behind the Danube, as far as the number of cruise vessels transiting the locks is concerned.

 

FLEET FOR RIVER CRUISES

Before the Main-Danube-Canal was built in 1992, the EU had two main distinct river basins which were not connected to each other, the Rhine basin and the Danube basin. With the completion of the Main-Danube Canal, these basins became interconnected. Already at the beginning of the 20th century, the Elbe and the Oder were connected to the Rhine by the construction of a large canal network (in particular the Mittelland Canal) in northern Germany.

In the 2017 season, the river cruise fleet in Europe7 comprised 346 active vessels with 50,616 beds. The number of active cruise vessels more than doubled between 2004 and 2017. In 2017, 17 vessels were introduced to the market with 2,558 beds. This newbuilding volume represented 5% of the existing fleet. As seven ships were removed from the fleet in 2017, the net increase in 2017 was 11 vessels with approximately 1,770 beds, representing 3.6% of the existing fleet.

7The European river cruise fleet, as it is defined in this report, comprises the fleet in the EU and in Switzerland.

 

17 new cruise vessels with 2,558 beds were introduced to the European market in 2017

 

NUMBER OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN EUROPE BY REGION OF OPERATION (2004 – 2017)

Source: Hader, A. (2017), The River Cruise Fleet

 

On the Elbe and the Loire, a leading European company in river cruising operates three new vessels with paddle-wheel propulsion. They are very well adapted to shallow waters, a phenomenon that sometimes occurs on these two rivers.

In 2017, 153 of 346 cruise vessels were registered in Switzerland. The Swiss river cruise fleet doubled within a decade. Another 62 cruise vessels were registered in Germany, where some of the most important tour operators are based.8

The age structure of the European fleet shows that 42% of all vessels were built after 2010. Only 13 % were built before 1990. The oldest vessel has been in service for more than 100 years on the Göta Canal in Sweden.

8 Sources: Swiss Rhine ports and German Inland Vessel Register

 

NUMBER OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN THE EU BY YEAR OF CONSTRUCTION

Source: Hader, A. (2017), The River Cruise Fleet

 

The average number of beds in new cruise vessels has been decreasing slightly since 2012. However, based on order books, the expected average number is 151 beds for the newbuildings in 2018, which is almost equivalent to the 2017 figure.

 

AVERAGE NUMBER OF BEDS IN NEW RIVER CRUISE VESSELS IN EUROPE BY YEAR OF CONSTRUCTION*

Source: Hader, A. (2017), The River Cruise Fleet. * figure for 2018: forecast

 

In terms of greening measures, it should be mentioned that for passenger vessels, the share of vessels that were equipped with at least one greening measure was 54% in 2014, 57% in 2015 and 61% in 2016, and the upwards trend continues in 2017. The intensity of the intention to make the fleet more ecologically friendly thus increased constantly between 2014 and 2017. It can be added that the greening rate was generally higher in passenger shipping than in goods transport.9

The figure below shows the evolution of active cruise vessels worldwide. It is well recognised that Europe has the largest cruise fleet today.

9 See Market Report 2014-2017 (NAIADES II Progress report) – Main features and trends of the European Inland Waterways Transport sector, CCNR

 

DISTRIBUTION OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS PER REGION WORLDWIDE (NUMBER OF VESSELS)

Source: Hader, A. (2017), The River Cruise Fleet

 

Due to the absence of newbuildings, the Russian fleet is dwindling and the EU fleet already overtook the Russian fleet in 2005.

The Nile fleet is still large, but the number of tourists going to Egypt, following a peak in 2011, has been decreasing significantly since the revolution in 2011. This loss could not be compensated with the “home cruising” sector, as most Egyptians do not have the financial means to enjoy a cruise in their own country. Due to the drop in tourist numbers, some Nile vessels were put on hold and are currently not active.

A closer look at other parts of the world, and particularly rivers in Asia and the Americas, shows that the US fleet is gaining in importance (the Columbia and Mississippi rivers), but also in China a growing fleet can be observed (the Yangtze river) and in Southeast Asia (the Mekong river) the fleet is constantly growing.

 

The river cruise fleet in Europe grew by 182 vessels from 2004 to 2017 – an increase of 111%

 

In the years following 2014, the newbuilding activity in the European market slowed down. The driving force for the newbuilding rate is the demand for newly built cruise vessels from the overseas source markets (US-Americans, Canadians, Australians). Because of the terroristic attacks in recent years in Europe, the demand from these overseas tourists has weakened and resulted in a decline of newbuilding rates. However, after the decreasing newbuilding activity in recent years, predictions do not confirm a further decline for 2019.

 

NEW RIVER CRUISE VESSELS FOR THE EUROPEAN MARKET 2004-2018*

Source: Hader, A. (2017), The River Cruise Fleet. * 2018: forecast based on order books

 

The year 2017 was characterised by a stronger regional diversification: seven out of 17 new vessels (35% of the new bed capacity) were deployed on relatively “newcomer rivers” (Seine, Rhône, Douro).

 

NEW CRUISE CAPACITIES IN 2016, 2017 AND 2018 PER REGION OF OPERATION (NUMBER OF BEDS) *


Source: Hader, A. (2017), The River Cruise Fleet *R/M/M/D = Rhine/Main/Main-Danube Canal/Danube. Figures for 2018: forecast.

 

Concerning the construction plans of new vessels, there are projects to again launch some very large vessels in the coming years. Today, most of the vessels with a 110 m or 135 m length have a beam (width) of 11.4 / 11.45 m. This is the maximum width allowed to pass through locks which are 12.0 m, wide.

Locks in the Danube, the Upper Rhine and some Dutch canals are much larger with a 24 m, width. Therefore taking into account this size, only very few cruise vessels use the full opportunities offered by the locks in these regions.

The largest river cruise vessel ever built for Europe, the AMAMAGNA (for 194 passengers) is currently under construction. Its hull is being built in Serbia, and due to its large size, it is being transported on the seaway from Serbia via the mouth of the Danube to the Netherlands, where the finishing works are being carried out. It will then be transported back to the mouth of the Danube via seaways. The vessel will come onto the market in 2019.

 

DEMAND FOR RIVER CRUISES

NUMBER OF PASSENGERS ON EUROPEAN CRUISE VESSELS BY NATIONALITY (IN 1000)

Source: IG River Cruise / German Travel Association (DRV) / SeaConsult

CH7 Number of passengers on European cruise vessels by nationality

 

Of the 1.4 million passengers who took a river cruise trip in Europe in 2017, which is 3% more than in 2016 (1.36 million), 38% of them were US-Americans or Canadians. In 2016, their growth rate had been 5%, but in the years 2014 and 2015, much higher growth rates were observed. The slowdown of demand in 2016 and 2017 could be explained by the terrorist attacks that took place in 2015 in Europe. This had an impact on travel behaviour of US-American tourists, to the detriment of the European cruise sector.

In 2017, German tourists were ranked second, and their number also increased by 3%. The British and Irish source markets were again the third largest category of passengers. Compared to the previous year, their stake even increased by 10%. The number of passengers showing the strongest relative growth, however, are Australians and New Zealanders. Their stake increased by 22% in 2017, after an almost equally strong increase (23%) in the previous year.

 

Australians and New Zealanders are the source market with the strongest percentage growth in the European river cruise market:
+23% in 2017
and
+22% in 2016

 

Already now, operators report growing numbers of Chinese tourists, and expect their share to grow to an important level in the future.

For the German tourists, the Danube, with a share of 36%, was the preferred river in 2017. It has thus overtaken the Rhine, which had a share of 31.5% in 2017, showing a decrease from a former 35.5% in 2016.

 

DISTRIBUTION OF GERMAN RIVER CRUISE PASSENGERS PER TRAVEL DESTINATION (%)

Source: IG River Cruise / German Travel Association (DRV) / SeaConsult

CH7 Distribution of German river cruise passengers per travel destination

 

Overall, it can be observed that river cruises are still characterised to be most attractive for age groups > 55. Among the German tourists, 25.6% of passengers were in the 56-65 age group in 2017, and 59.3% were older than 65. Hence, only 15.1% of the passengers were in age classes < 55.

The overall evolution of demand thus depends on important source markets with a significant demographic potential in the age groups that show the strongest preference for river cruises. Demand evolution is of course also dependent on the overall political situation in Europe, and major events such as terrorist attacks can put a strain on the demand development.

Furthermore, environmental conditions also play a role. It is both the low water and high water situation that creates difficulties for cruise traffic. In 2013, for example, a flood occurred on the Danube, which had a strong impact on the river cruise traffic, as can be seen in the figure below which shows the number of vessel transits per month through the lock of Jochenstein at the German-Austrian border near Passau. The flood’s impact in June 2013 is clearly visible.

 

CRUISE SHIP TRANSITS ON THE DANUBE (GERMAN-AUSTRIAN BORDER NEAR PASSAU) PER MONTH *

Source: German Waterway and Shipping Administration. * lock of Jochenstein

CH7 Cruise ship transits on the Danube per month

 

The number of cruise vessels that transited through the German-Austrian border point near Passau amounted to 3,204 in 2017, compared to 3,134 in 2016 (+2.2%). Out of this number, approximately half of the vessel transits are downstream transits while the other half are upstream. Most river cruises are in fact round trips, for example travelling from Passau to Budapest and back within 7-8 days, or from Passau to the Danube Delta and back to Passau within 14-16 days. Among German tourists, this length of cruise was the preferred segment in 2017, with a share of 61% of all cruises. Cruises of a 8-12 day duration represented 13.6%. Even longer trips of 13-15 days, had a 8.3% share of. Short cruises (up to 4 days) represented 16.3%.

The following figure shows the evolution of ships transiting locks on the Danube, Rhine and its affluents. The Danube takes the lead, but suffered during the low water and ice conditions in 2015 and 2016. The average rate of increase on the Rhine was 8% per year during the period 2011-2016; before 2011, the average annual rate was lower, at around 5%. The period 2011-2016 corresponds to the time when the boom from US-American tourists started and developed. In 2017, traffic on the Rhine had a strong increase of 20% compared to 2016. This rate of growth is above the average rate of growth between 2011 and 2016.

 

YEARLY NUMBER OF CRUISE SHIP TRANSITS ON EUROPEAN RIVERS

Source: German Waterway and Shipping Administration
*sum of upstream and downstream traffic of cabin vessels at the following locks: Jochenstein (Danube), Iffezheim (Rhine), Koblenz (Moselle), Kelheim (Main-Danube Canal), Kostheim (Main), Kanzem (Saar).

CH7 Yearly number of cruise ship transits on European rivers

 

Between 2002 and 2017 river cruise traffic on the Danube increased by 89%, by 128% on the Rhine, and by 295% on the Main-Danube Canal.

 

As can be seen in the following figure, river cruise traffic on the Main-Danube Canal has nearly tripled since 2002, while Danube traffic nearly doubled and Rhine traffic more than doubled between 2002 and 2017.

 

PERCENTAGE INCREASE OF RIVER CRUISE TRAFFIC BETWEEN 2002 AND 2017 ON EUROPEAN RIVERS (%)

Source: CCNR based on German Waterway and Shipping Administration

CH7 Percentage increase of river cruise traffic between 2002 and 2017 on European rivers

Annual report
Year 2018

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Market Insight
FALL 2018

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Market Insight
WINTER 2018-2019

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