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Extra cruise ships set to bring £14m tourist boom

By Philip Murray

Cruise ships at dock in the Cromarty Firth. The AIDAvita, left, will be the first vessel to arrive at the port in the 2017 season.
Cruise ships at dock in the Cromarty Firth. The AIDAvita, left, will be the first vessel to arrive at the port in the 2017 season.

DOZENS of extra cruise ships are expected to dock in the Cromarty Firth this year and Inverness is well placed to capitalise on the boom, city business leaders believe.

Ninety-one cruise ships are currently scheduled to stop at the Port of Cromarty Firth in Invergordon in 2017 – up sharply from the 63 it welcomed last year. And a record-breaking 142,000 passengers are expected to pass through the port.

Inverness Business Improvement District (Bid) is delighted at the news. The Highland capital welcomed nearly 2000 bus loads of tourists last season, of which 25 per cent were coaches ferrying cruise ship passengers.

Bid’s manager Mike Smith, believes the near 50 per cent increase in cruise ship numbers will be a massive boost to city traders.

"We welcomed 1932 coaches into the city centre last year," said Mr Smith. "Of these 25 per cent were linked to cruise ships, so they represent a very significant number and a near 50 per cent increase in the number of ships is very important for businesses in the area."

Port bosses believe the flood of passengers will generate £14 million for the region’s economy, up an extra £3 million on 2016.

And they believe the bumper numbers will boost tourist attractions across the Highlands, including the Castle of Mey, Castle Stuart, Urquhart Castle, Glenmorangie Distillery, Inverness and the Strathspey Steam Railway.

Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: "The cruise sector has a crucial role to play in the Cromarty Firth area, supporting the creation of local jobs in a number of areas including: tour guides, shipping agents, ground handling staff, transport providers, pipers, and the employees of local distilleries, golf clubs and the hospitality industry."

This year’s cruising season is also expected to last longer than in previous years.

The first cruise ship to arrive will be the AIDAvita on April 12, carrying 1200 passengers, while the last vessel currently scheduled to arrive will be later than usual – with the ‘Black Watch’ cruise ship’s 800 passengers expected in dock on December 3.

Captain Iain Dunderdale, cruise manager at the port, said: "We have been seeing a steady increase in the number of cruise passengers visiting Invergordon over the years, but 2017 looks like it is going to be extraordinary.

"Some of the world’s largest cruise ships will be coming into the port this year. This is really good news for businesses across the Highlands.

"We are looking forward to welcoming eight new cruise ships this year, including MSC Cruises’ MSC Preziosa, which will carry 3500 passengers and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ new flagship, Columbus, which will carry 1750 passengers."

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