The cruise industry contributed a record €47.86 billion to the European economy last year, according to new figures.

This represented a rise of almost 17% against the previous figure released in 2015, trade association Clia reported

The increase was largely thanks to more Europeans choosing a cruise holiday, passengers sailing in Europe and more cruise ships being built in European shipyards.

The cruise sector generated more than 43,000 new jobs across Europe over the two years, with 403,621 now employed in cruise and cruise-related businesses

Direct expenditure in the UK rose by 18% in the period. Spending by passengers and crew at UK port cities increased by 13% as a result of a combined 21% growth in embarkations and transit visits.

There were more than 34 million passenger and 6.7 million crew visits to European ports in 2017, up by 9.6% on 2015. Cruise lines visited around 250 ports in Europe including the Atlantic islands.

Clia Europe chairman David Dingle, chairman of Carnival UK, outlined the figures in the organisation’s latest Europe economic impact report.

He said: “Europe’s economic contribution is a direct result of the impressive growth the cruise industry saw in 2017 as it reached 26.7 million passengers on ocean cruises globally.”

UK ocean cruise passenger numbers are projected to reach two million this year.

Dingle added: “ We are confident that the cruise industry’s growth in Europe will be sustained for years to come.

“Clia continues to work with policymakers, regulators and other stakeholders across a variety of important industry subjects including environmental and sustainability areas.”