The Port of Cromarty Firth has welcomed a record breaking 151,078 cruise passengers on 93 ships to Invergordon and the Highlands in 2017. This represents a 54% increase on 2016, when 97,992 passengers visited the Port. It also firmly reinforces the Port’s position as Scotland’s busiest cruise port.
This year’s season started in April with a visit from the AIDAVita, carrying 1,490 passengers, and ended on 3rd December, when the Black Watch visited the Port, with 612 passengers looking to sample the delights of the Highlands in winter. The 2017 cruise season has once again extended into December.
In 2017, there was a direct spend by these passengers of around £15m in the local area and across the Highlands. This provided an income boost to a range of attractions and destinations, from Eilean Donan Castle, Glenmorangie Distillery and Inverness, to Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Urquhart Castle and Strathspey Steam Railway.
A number of ships visited Invergordon on many different occasions; the AIDAVita came in six times. The largest ship the MSC Preziosa, carrying over 4,000 passengers on occasions, visited four times. The Caribbean Princess was the most frequent visitor with 12 calls in the eight-month season. 2017 also saw the return of Thomson Cruises to the Port, for the first time since 2013 with a visit from the Thomson Celebration in August this year.
The Port also organised two Cruise Workshops for local tourism businesses in 2017, for those interested in finding out how working with the cruise sector could boost their business. The first, in February this year was a sell-out with more than 50 people attending. The next one, on 6th December is also a sell-out with more than sixty delegates registered to attend.
Captain Dunderdale, the Port’s Cruise Manager, said: “This has been an incredibly busy year for Invergordon and yet again we have a season that extended into December. With the support of an incredible team of Highland businesses, we were able to offer over 150,000 people the warmest of Highland welcomes. Worldwide, the cruise sector is the fastest growing area of travel and we look forward to welcoming even more passengers in 2018.”
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Partnerships Director, said: “It is encouraging to see Scotland’s popularity as an exciting cruising destination increasing every year and I am delighted to hear that numbers are up again this year at Invergordon. The fact that the tourism season in this region can be extended by these cruise ships docking here into December is very welcome. It also brings a fantastic boost to the local visitor economy.
“Tourism is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy, causing a ripple effect which touches every industry and community, creating employment and economic growth. Our reputation as a quality destination relies on continued investment and innovation to ensure that current provision meets future demand.”
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “As a deep-water port that is in close proximity to many of the Highlands’ most beautiful and historical locations, the Port of Cromarty Firth is the ideal location to grow and develop cruise tourism in Scotland.
“There are 81 new cruise liners currently on order throughout the world, many of which will accommodate more than 5000 passengers. The Port of Cromarty Firth is one of only three ports in Scotland that can accommodate ships of this size and, with more of them being built, it is essential for us to be able to receive them. Our investment and development plans will allow the Port to continue to introduce more people to the beauty and history of the Highlands.”
Bob Buskie, added: “This is an extremely exciting time for the Port as we continue to work with the local community, Highland businesses and government officials to develop cruise tourism for the area. We are still in the development stage of our new berth, which we are hoping will be completed by 2020. We are also working with Highland Council, ScotRail and Stagecoach to increase the number of buses and trains in service during busy times.
“We also plan to work with our cruise stakeholder group members to provide training for local shop owners and secure improved facilities on Invergordon High Street. You would be surprised at how many cruise passengers and crew need access to local shops. A new Cruise Business Club will also be launched next year. This partnership working will ensure the Highlands capitalises on the increased passenger numbers and that visiting passengers have a unique experience in the region’s beautiful towns, villages and attractions and will want to return for a longer stay.”