Plain sailing: Extended Aberdeen port could see cruise ship calls double to 100 in three years

Economic benefit to potentially exceed £20 million if annual guest numbers reach 150,000.

Aberdeen could be hosting 100 cruise ships by 2027 in a multi-million-pound boost for the city and surrounding region, twice the number due to dock this year, port bosses are projecting.

The number of cruise calls has grown by more than 130 per cent since 2022. This has increased guest numbers from around 3,000 up to the 34,000 or so expected this year, buoyed by the arrival of larger ships at the port’s new Aberdeen South Harbour.

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With each cruise call to Scotland generating an average spend of £134 per passenger, the potential boost to the regional economy could be significant, the port said. In 2024, this could total more than £4.5 million and potentially exceed £20m in subsequent years if guest numbers reach 150,000.

The completion of South Harbour should allow the facility to increase the number of larger cruise ships visiting the region.The completion of South Harbour should allow the facility to increase the number of larger cruise ships visiting the region.
The completion of South Harbour should allow the facility to increase the number of larger cruise ships visiting the region.

Bob Sanguinetti, chief executive of Port of Aberdeen, said: “With South Harbour complete, we are fully focused on consolidating and accelerating growth in this key sector. This will be largely driven by increasing the number of larger cruise ships visiting the region and we’re having positive discussions with existing and prospective customers to secure this business. We’re confident that our world-class facility, coupled with the amazing destination, will position Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire as one of the UK’s top cruise destinations.”

The port will welcome a new size and scale of cruise ships this year, including the Costa Favolosa, a 290 metre-long ship with a capacity exceeding 4,000 guests and crew. Joining her are maritime giants such as the 253m-long AIDAsol and AIDAdiva, alongside exclusive vessels like the returning Sea Cloud Spirit and other smaller “boutique” ships.

Many local businesses and attractions are gearing up for another busy year of increased footfall from cruise calls. Success stories from 2023 include the expansion of Aberdeen Whisky Shop to accommodate whisky tasting for cruise tourists, while St Machar’s Cathedral has experienced a 40 per cent uplift to 42,000 visitors, along with a 50 per cent increase in donations and shop takings.

Sarah Brown, minister of St Machar’s Cathedral, said: “It is great to see busloads of faces light up as they encounter our unique space and chance to encounter God in this special place in the history of the church and city. We hope as more people come, the better our welcome will become through our conversations together.”

Volunteers, who are seen as essential in guiding and informing guests about the local offerings, will be back on the quayside for this season. The VisitAberdeenshire programme, supported by Aberdeen Inspired and Port of Aberdeen, delivered in excess of 300 volunteer hours last summer from around 20 “energetic and enthused individuals with a shared passion for their region”.

Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “The growth in calls for 2024 is a vote of confidence in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as an emerging cruise destination. VisitAberdeenshire is scaling up its work to enhance the welcome offered to passengers, the readiness of local suppliers and to secure more business from cruise operators and shore excursion companies.”



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