A HIGHLAND port is expected to welcome a record-breaking number of cruise passengers this season – bringing an £11million boost to the region’s economy.
The Port of Cromarty Firth is preparing for an estimated 96,500 passengers on 63 cruise ships will visit the harbour between the 25 April and 26 September 2016.
This is the highest number of visitors to the area since the Port started to welcome cruise liners in 1978.
This new cruise ship record equates to an increase of 12.5% on last year and will boost the local economy by more than £11 million.
The Port will welcome a number of ships for the first time.
These include Zuiderdam and the Koningsdam from the Holland-America line, the Costa neoRomantica, the Pacific Princess, and the Celebrity Silhouette.
The Port will also welcome the Disney Magic cruise liner, which will stop twice at the Port on the 8 June and 23 July.
The cruise sector has a crucial role to play in the Cromarty Firth, supporting the creation of local jobs in a number of areas including: tour guides, shipping agents, ground handling staff, taxi and mini-bus drivers, employees within the hospitality industry, tourist attraction guides, pipers, local distilleries, golf clubs and marine staff.
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth said; “This is gearing up to be a really exciting year for us. With more passengers than ever before coming to Invergordon, this is a great opportunity for all our stakeholders to showcase the area as the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’.
“We are particularly excited to welcome Disney Magic to the Port for the first time.
“Invergordon is increasingly becoming an attraction in its own right, with its golf club and the town’s famous murals including “The Long Goodbye” and “Volunteer Spirit”.
“There is also a thriving arts and crafts scene, with many gift shops. This, alongside the culture and history shown through the Invergordon Museum and its Highland welcome, has proven popular with cruise ship visitors.”
Captain Iain Dunderdale, Cruise Development Manager, added: “Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in cruise tourism.
“As recently as 2002, there were only 21 ships and 12,900 passengers coming into the Port. This year we have now reached record numbers.
“The cruise season is shorter, yet we have managed to achieve a 12.5 percentage increase in the number of ships and a six percentage increase in the number of visitors coming to the Highlands through the Port.
“We will see some of the world’s largest cruise ships coming into Port, making use of the deep water that we have to offer.
“This is really good news for everyone and I look forward to welcoming new and returning vessels into the Port over the coming months.”
The Port of Cromarty Firth has been a Trust Port for 40 years and all profits are invested back into the Port locally. It is a key national asset worth £1.2 Billion to the Highland economy and works with local stakeholders to ensure that businesses can grow and thrive while also protecting the environment.