The Costa Concordia ship tragedy earlier this year caused “a pause” in UK cruise holiday bookings, the boss of Southampton-based Carnival UK revealed.

Chief executive David Dingle said numbers have since picked up and latest figures showed the city was receiving a £2.5m boost to the economy for each cruise visit.

A total of 32 lives were lost when the Costa Concordia struck rocks and turned on its side off the coast of Italy in January. The Costa Cruises ship is part of the Miami-based Carnival Corporation.

Mr Dingle, a member of the European Cruise Council (ECC) executive, said: “After the tragic Costa Concordia incident the world’s cruise industry moved swiftly to review and improve operational safety measures, and to reassure customers that cruising is a safe and enjoyable holiday.

“Booking volumes in the UK understandably paused after the tragedy while people sought assurance but the British market has seen numbers pick up, despite economic concerns which are influencing consumer spending.”

His comments came as the ECC announced that the cruise industry generated direct expenditure of £2.28 billion last year in the UK – up 10.2 per cent on 2010.

The number of UK passengers who took a cruise in 2011 increased by 10.9 per cent to 1.7 million – 28 per cent of the continent’s cruise market.

The cruise industry last year provided employment in the UK for 63,834 people, of whom 14,486 worked directly for cruise lines. Southampton was the second busiest European port behind Venice in 2011, used by 1.5 million cruise passengers.

The ECC said the economic benefits gained in Southampton amount to £2.5m every time a cruise ship arrives in port or departs, with the city and region receiving an annual boost of more than £300m from the cruise industry.

Mr Dingle said: “Despite these challenging times the cruise industry is making an increasingly significant contribution to the British economy and that of mainland Europe by creating jobs and acting as a catalyst for tourism.

“Next year we will see more ships deployed in UK ports which we believe is testimony to the continued confidence in the UK as the world’s second largest source market for the cruise industry.”