ALMOST 600 delegates from the travel industry are expected to descend on Southampton today for the start of the annual UK Cruise Convention.

The convention is the biggest UK trade show for the cruise industry and provides a platform for agents to learn more about cruise brands and destinations.

The event, held at St Mary's Stadium, includes seminars, keynote speakers, five ship visits and an exhibition area.

Deputy Southampton port manager Steven Young, who will be speaking at the event which runs until Wednesday, said: "The cruise industry is growing faster than anyone expected, with the UK market increasing by 11 per cent in the last year according to the European Cruise Council.

"It is a great honour for both ABP and the city of Southampton to be chosen to host such a prestigious event, reinforcing our position within the cruise industry and as one of the major drivers of the local economy."

Sally Lynskey, chief executive of trade group Business Southamp-ton, said: "The convention allows us to present what Southampton has to offer in terms of hotels, restaurants, transport and much more, in order to encourage repeat visits to the city.

"It is essential that everyone in the cruise vacation supply chain knows about the fantastic facilities we have at Southampton and the world class landmark tourist sites in the county," she added.