Aberdeen is getting ready to position itself as a world-class cruise destination with hopes the city’s new deepwater harbour will attract luxury vessels with up to 5,000 passengers and crew on board.
Talks are now underway to insure Aberdeen is ready to receive the predicted influx of tourists with work ongoing to create a high quality package of attractions and experiences for a typically discerning, moneyed group of visitors.
Golf, whisky, heritage and a beautiful natural environment are expected to draw passengers into the city and surrounding area with Visit Aberdeenshire now to appoint a full-time project manager for the cruise sector.
However, the city’s ability to transport this volume of tourists away from the new South Harbour, due to open in 2020, is considered one of the “biggest logistical challenges” to Aberdeen increasing its share in Scotland’s fast growing cruise sector which is already worth an estimated £76m a year.
Elaine Booth, business engagement manager at VisitAberdeenshire, said: “On the ground transport is one of the biggest logistical challenges we face as we prepare the region to become a world class cruise destination. On some of the larger ships we could have up to 5,000 passengers and crew that require transport to get them from the South Harbour onwards to their destination.”
A meeting was held earlier this month to discuss the transport issue with officials from Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council among those who attended. While the enlarged cruise ship business is expected to be a boon for local bus and taxi companies, research has pinned Aberdeen as the most congested city in Scotland with peak-hour journeys the third longest in the UK after London and Manchester.
Chris Bain, external relations manager at Aberdeen Harbour Board, said the site of the new South Harbour at Nigg Bay would give ease of access to the new by-pass, the Aberdeen West Peripheral Route, which is expected to open next Spring.
She said: “We have positioned the new facility to miss the congestion of the city centre.”
Extra money is also being sought from the City Region Deal to improve access to and from Nigg Bay with Aberdeen working with other major cruise destinations, such as Orkney, to inform its transport strategy.
Ms Bain said the main challenge for Aberdeen becoming a serious cruise destination will be getting the right high quality offering in place for visitors.
She added: “Cruise operators work very strongly on feedback from customers.
“The challenge is to make sure that what we can offer is high quality and seamless, from the arrival in the port, to the transportation and the retail standard.”
Aberdeen already has a small cruise sector and was scheduled to receive 27 small cruise ships - around 1,400 hundred passengers - during 2017. Some highly exclusive voyages around Britain and Scotland call at the city, which is also on some Scandinavian cruise routes.
At the new Aberdeen harbour, passengers will be able to disembark directly at quayside rather than being ferried to land.
Ms Bain said: “Cruise companies have sounded very enthusiastic about Aberdeen.
“For them it is a great benefit for them to be able to come right to quayside without that extra inconvenience for passengers. Very few Scottish ports are able to provide that.”
German and American markets are of particular interest to Aberdeen with Scotland an “ever popular” destination for cruise ships.
She added: “If you speak to cruise ship executives, they don’t see that trend changing any time soon.
As parts of the world are perceived to be less safe, Scotland is considered to be a safe place to visit.