Cromarty Firth cruise ship calls hit a new record as industry bounces back after pandemic
A record number of cruise ships visited the Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF), in the Scottish Highlands, this year, as the industry recovered rapidly in the wake of Covid-19.
And the Trust Port is forecasting further increases next year, bringing an estimated £20million boost to the region’s economy.
At 109, the number of cruise ship calls at Invergordon, in Easter Ross, between April and this month was five more than in the last full pre-pandemic season, in 2019.
With liners operating at reduced capacity throughout the period, the total number of passengers arriving at the Easer Ross Port was just under 142,000, compared to 166,000 three years ago.
The visits by the vessels and associated tours to Inverness and tourist attractions throughout the region are estimated to have contributed around £15m to the wider Highland economy this year.
That figure is expected to be surpassed next year, with advance bookings pointing to significant increases in calls at the Port and passenger numbers in 2023.
Allison McGuire, PoCF’s Cruise Manager, said: “After all the challenges since the outset of the Covid pandemic, the cruise industry in Scotland has certainly bounced back this year.
“We were expecting a gradual return to pre-2019 figures, but we are delighted that was not the case and 2022 has proved to be another record-breaking year in terms of vessel visits for the Port of Cromarty Firth.
“Initially, the cruise ships calling at Invergordon and other ports were operating at 60-70% capacity. However, towards the end of the season we saw an increase in the number of passengers arriving, with some vessels reaching up to 95% capacity.
“Next year, we are expecting another record-breaking season, with a large increase in cruise calls and passenger numbers. This will increase the local spend and contribute in excess of £20m to the wider Highland economy.”
Ms McGuire added that, in common with the tourism and hospitality industry throughout the Highlands and elsewhere, staffing levels had presented challenges this year, with a shortage of coach drivers at times effecting the tours that could be offered.
Invergordon’s 2022 cruise season started in April, with the arrival of the Viking Venus, one of 21 vessels that made their maiden calls to the Port during the year. The year’s final visitor to the Cromarty Firth was the Norwegian Dawn, earlier this month.