THE number of cruise ship passengers who visited Scotland this year soared by almost 10 per cent, despite a slight reduction in the number of vessels docking at Scottish ports, it was revealed today.
And Scotland’s cruise ports are already set to attract a record number of passengers next year as a campaign to attract more visitors is stepped up by marketing association, Cruise Scotland.
An end-of-season report, published today, reveals that passenger figures this year were up by 9.7 per cent on 2012 to 384,639 influenced in part by increasing vessel capacity.
Vessel calls at 454 were down slightly on the 466 ships which docked last year.
Cruise tourism is estimated to have been worth £48.8 million to Scotland in 2013, a rise five per cent on last year.
A Cruise Scotland spokesman said: “The trend towards larger vessels continues with 450 arrivals currently expected in 2014, carrying approximately 390,000 passengers - the highest number yet to ports around the country.”
Victor Sandison, Cruise Scotland’s chairman, said: “Working closely with the Scottish Government and various agencies, we continue to make significant progress in a highly competitive, expanding international market.
“Over the past four seasons, vessels calling are up 26 per cent, passengers by 43 per cent and the value of cruise tourism to Scotland by 52.5 per cent.”
He continued: “We are committed to increasing awareness of the country’s many attractions, improving visitor experience and growing our market share.”
Fergus Ewing, Scotland’s Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, welcomed the increase.
He said: “With the end of season figures showing an increase in passenger figures during 2013 as well as 2014 currently scheduling around 390,000 passengers, these are very encouraging results. They are testament to the hard work of all the industry and the hard work of the Cruise Scotland team.
“The Scottish Government will continue to support the cruise industry, across all of Scotland, and we will work closely together in order to make the most of what Scotland has to offer at every potential destination – irrespective of the size of the vessel.”
The Cruise Scotland spokesman added: “Cruise Scotland is to continue its presence at industry events in 2014, including Cruise Shipping Miami in March and Seatrade Med in Barcelona in September.It has identified opportunities to promote Scotland outside English-speaking markets, including France, Spain and Italy. Having successfully coordinated a number of earlier familiarisation visits to Scotland for cruise operators, the organisation has plans to increase this activity in 2014.”
But he warned: “Challenges faced by the industry currently include continued lobbying with other UK bodies, trade associations and ports to resolve issues over the UK Border Force’s face-to-document checks for passengers; tougher sulphur emission controls from 2015 which may impact on cruise calls to some Scottish ports; and constraints on coach capacity in some regions alongside insufficient tour guides with linguistic skills.”
A study, commissioned by Cruise Scotland and its partners in 2010, identified the potential to quadruple cruise ship visitor numbers to almost 1.1 million by 2029.