Water-based activities are a popular leisure pursuit around the world, and canal boat tour is one of them. In nations where canals or rivers flow through cities, it might be considered an environmentally benign recreational activity. Canal and river-based activities offer stunning scenery, recreational opportunities, heritage experiences, and connections to the natural environment, all of which can improve people’s well-being.

The terrain of Europe affords a vast network of natural waterways, which are linked by countless canals. Several European countries, particularly France, constructed numerous short canals that connected to rivers. Some countries, such as Germany, concentrated on the construction of huge canals that connected to their rivers.

Canal Boat Tourism

Canal boating is classified as a sub-category of leisure boat tourism. Single-day boating or short voyages around canals on small watercraft are considered canal boat tourism. It is regarded as a specialized type of ocean and sea cruise tourism. Canal boat tours, according to this definition, operate over small distances with small vessels for shorter domestic trading. In 1828, Dayton hosted the first canal boat launch. People could now travel to Cincinnati in twenty hours, which was a record at that time.

The cruise industry has done extensive research on passenger behavior. Although ‘water-based leisure activities’ play an important part in human life. Scholars have paid little attention to psychosocial analysis, which investigates the marketing component of ‘canal boat trips’. Following are some common means of traveling on various types of vessels capable of long-distance sailing.

  • Cruise ships
  • Ocean liner
  • Freighter travel
  • Cruising on small crafts
  • Ferries
  • Speedboat

Worldwide Boat and Cruise Travel Statistics (From India to the US and the UK)

  1. According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the ministry of statistics government of India about 821,700 overseas passengers arrive and 781,000 overseas passengers depart from the country.
  2. From the total number of arrivals and departures in Ireland, about 12.3% (101,300) arrived and 13.8% (108,000) departed by sea.
  3. Cruising continues to rise at a rapid pace around the world, according to CLIA, with over 7% growth from 2017 to 2018, totaling 28.5 million passengers.
  4. North American cruisers continue to appreciate the experience, with an annual passenger rise of 9% (14.2 million passengers) in 2018.
  5. The Caribbean remains the most popular cruise destination, with 11.3 million cruise passengers visiting in 2018, up 6% from the previous year.
  6. When compared to the significant rises of the past, CLIA noted only moderate growth across Asia and China.
  7. The year-wise boat travel statistics increased from year 2009 to 2020 worldwide (Figure 1).
  8. The traveling rate the number of people in millions is increasing with each passing year but suddenly breakdown in 2020.
  9. The global cruise industry was impacted badly by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which hampered travel and tourism due to emergency measures implemented around the world to stop the virus from spreading.
  10. The number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide in that year was 5.8 million, down from nearly 30 million in 2019 (Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1: Number of ocean cruise passengers worldwide from 2009 to 2020(in millions)

  1. The number of cruise passengers in the region increased by 5% in 2018, to a still outstanding 4.2 million.
  2. The region wise of passenger’s travel volume define the most of the travelers were observed in North America (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2: Passenger Volume (Region wise)

  1. Cruises visit practically every area of the globe, from local coastal sites to far-flung destinations like Antarctica.
  2. Some cruises are only a few days long, while others might last weeks or months as they travel across oceans or even the globe.
  3. The Caribbean, Asia, and the Mediterranean were among the most popular cruise destinations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Other popular locations were Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
  5. Despite the fact that the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda had the biggest number of cruise passengers during the health crisis in 2020, it was just a fifth of the previous year’s total (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Figure 3: Passengers’ Volume toward Travel Destination

  1. Recreational boating is considered as a recreational usage of a boat or the leisurely activity of traveling by boat in United Kingdom.
  2. In 2018, 3.9 million adults in the UK took part in a boating activity, accounting for 7.3 percent of the population.
  3. With over 20,000 miles of shoreline, as well as numerous rivers, lakes, and canals, the United Kingdom has some stunning waterways.
  4. The tourists go aboard a boat and discover the history and beauty of the country.
  5. From the Scottish Highlands to the Cornish coast, most favorite boat trips are Canterbury River Tours, city cruises London, crannog cruises Scotland, Cruise Loch Ness, Dartmouth river cruise, Falcon boats, Farne Island boat trips,Mersey ferries Liverpool, Needles pleasure cruise, Oxford river cruise, Sabrina boat trips, Titanic boat tours, and York city cruises.
  6. If we observe the water travel statistics of the United Kingdom (UK) then it says the overall number of foreign short sea passengers (ferry routes) fell by 63% to 6.9 million, while cruise passengers fell by 95% to 107,000 (comparing 2019 to 2020 statistics; Figure 4).
  7. The cruise industry had already halted operations when the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020 (figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4: UK domestic and international sea passengers

  1. The overall number of marine passengers on domestic routes fell by 51% to 20.6 million.
  2. River ferries had a 48 percent drop in passengers, while inter-island travelers dropped by 53%.
  3. Domestic sea crossings have dropped by 58%.
  4. Short sea passengers on international routes in the UK are decreased by 63 percent in 2020, from 18.4 to 6.9 million in 2019 (figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5: UK passenger’s short sea travel from 2019 to 2020

  1. Boating is a widely popular recreational activity in the United States, with over 87 million individuals participating each year.
  2. Travel opportunities like a paddle-wheel cruise down the Mississippi River, which stops at historic sites like St. Louis, Missouri, Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana, are becoming increasingly popular.
  3. City tours are also available in coastal cities such as San Francisco and New York, for whale viewing.
  4. According to CLIA statistics, over 15% of the total US population has cruised at some point in their lives, with 7% to 8% doing so in the last three years.
  5. This means that 85 percent of Americans have never cruised, indicating that this industry has a lot of room for growth.
  6. Nearly every territory in the United States has boating opportunities i.e., water buses and ferries can transport tourists from one location to another or simply provide a scenic tour of the area.
  7. Ferries are substantially larger and can transport vehicles as well as passengers to and from stations.

The following are popular ferry routes in the United States:

      • Marine Highway System of Alaska
      • Staten Island Ferry
      • Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry
      • Cape May-Lewes Ferry
      • Washington State Ferries – Seattle to Bremerton
      • New Orleans Ferry – Canal Street to Algiers Point
      • Golden Gate Ferry – San Francisco to Sausalito
      • Steamship Authority – Hyannis to Nantucket

Cruise Industry Revenue

  1. The global cruise industry’s income has risen to over 27 billion dollars in recent years, despite travel limitations imposed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020.
  2. With its lengthy beaches and proximity to several surrounding ports in the beautiful Caribbean Sea, the United States leads the globe in cruise income.
  3. Prior to the epidemic, revenue from the cruise industry in the United States was more than four times that of Germany, the second largest market.
  4. The United States remained the market leader in 2020, but revenue fell by nearly $12 billion from the previous year.
  5. Overall, despite the fact that travel booking services are gradually shifting online in this part, offline sales remain the master sales channel for the worldwide cruise industry, accounting for slightly under a quarter of total revenue.

Leading Cruise Companies

  1. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Carnival Corporation & plc, both headquartered in the United States, are two of the most well-known cruise businesses.
  2. Carnival Corporation & plc’s global revenue in 2020 was 5.6 billion US dollars, down sharply from the previous year owing to the pandemic.
  3. In 2021, Carnival accounted for about half of the global cruise business, while Royal Caribbean accounted for a quarter of the global market.
  4. However, in recent years, despite difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Carnival Corporation & plc’s global revenue was more than double that of Royal Caribbean.
  5. Royal Caribbean’s global revenue in 2020 was slightly over two billion dollars, down from over ten billion dollars before the pandemic.
  6. While ticket sales brought in the most money in 2020, revenue from tours and onshore excursions dried up completely, as these activities were severely limited during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  7. Despite the fact that Royal Caribbean Cruises operates some of the world’s largest cruise ships, Carnival Corporation remains the world’s largest cruise operator by revenue.


Mehran, J., Olya, H. G., Han, H., & Kapuscinski, G. (2020). Determinants of canal boat tour participant behaviors: An explanatory mixed-method approach. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing37(1), 112-127.


Wilkie, F. (2015). ‘A place without a place’: Boat Travel. In Performance, Transport and Mobility (pp. 120-151). Palgrave Macmillan, London.











Erfurt-Cooper, P. (2009). European waterways as a source of leisure and recreation. River tourism, 95-116.