Workers on the move: global labour sourcing in the cruise industry
Few sectors in tourism are as highly globalised, capitalised, and as quickly growing as the cruise industry. The past several decades have witnessed a meteoric rise in worldwide demand for cruising and the industry continues to add capacity to match. Between 2003 and 2013 the number of passengers carried annually across the industry grew 77 per cent from just over 12 million passengers to over 21 million (CLIA 2014c). Demand is met with 410 ships in the global fleet, which include 29 new ships added between 2013 and 2014 (CLIA 2014a). Furthermore, this expansion is expected to continue over the next several years, with 28 new vessels currently contracted to be built by 2018 (CLIA 2014b). This growth has sparked a concurrent rise in demand for workers to operate the ships and serve the guests. In fact, the cruise business, like tourism as a whole, is particularly labour-intensive. Typically, ships employ one worker for every two to three passengers. On the largest vessels, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, over 2,000 workers will live aboard and work to serve around 5,000 passengers. In 2005 when the last comprehensive survey of cruise employment was undertaken, at least 150,000 seafarers were required to staff the ships industry-wide (Wu 2005). That number is certain to have grown by close to 50,000 considering the substantial growth of the sector over the past decade.