A boom is on the horizon for tourism businesses in the Highlands and Islands and north-east from a predicted 20% leap in the number of cruise passengers heading for Scottish ports this year.
Around 821,000 holidaymakers are expected to arrive aboard 815 vessels, compared with the record 680,600 who visited liner destinations including Invergordon, the northern an Western Isles and Aberdeen on 761 ships last year.
During the liner season, which starts this month and continues into the autumn, the total number of passengers to have visited Scotland’s ports since 2010 will pass the four million mark.
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said the cruise ship market had become a highly important part of the Highland tourism sector.
He said: “The significant numbers of cruise ship visitors give us the opportunity to showcase the best that we have to offer in terms of retail experience in addition to the region’s world famous cultural and natural history. In addition, the largely short-duration visits give the region’s food and drink establishments a great opportunity to let international visitors sample the very best food and drink that we have to offer.”
Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said: “Local businesses are becoming more aware of the needs of cruise passengers and are evolving their product and collaborating with others to offer innovative unique guest experiences.”
The latest figures were released as Cruise Scotland prepared to market the attractions of its 16 member ports at the industry biggest annual event, Seatrade Crusie Global, in Florida.