Moray Council is poised to launch a bid to lure luxury cruise liners to the region.
Local authority leader Stewart Cree revealed yesterday that his vision for the future of the local tourism industry includes landing passenger boats carrying holidaymakers with cash to spend.
He said he believes that only a lack of adequate berthing facilities for the larger vessels is stopping the region from enjoying a huge boom in revenue from visitors.
Last night, Moray Speyside Tourism confirmed the group had been in talks with the council about how best to market the area as a potential destination for liners.
Mr Cree said: “The emerging cruise ship market is something Moray Council will look at, as we know we have a lot to offer.
“We have so much that tourists travelling on cruise liners could enjoy, but we would need a lot of infrastructure to allow them to berth here.
“However, it is up to us in Moray Council to make sure that we have the landing facilities in place for such ships, and that is something we are now looking to investigate further.”
Mr Cree’s pledge came after talks with delegates from across the north at yesterday’s Convention of the Highlands and Islands, which took place at Moray College in Elgin.
The council leader added: “This conference can be so useful, as you learn from other authorities, and I found it very helpful speaking to representatives from the west coast about how they have tapped into the cruise ship market.
“Places like Orkney and Invergordon have really benefited from cruise ship visits, authorities fortunate enough to attract these ships are reporting significant economic benefits.”
Mr Cree said that as the plans were still at a “blue sky” stage no moves had yet been made to identify a harbour which could be modified to accommodate an influx of liners, but he said Buckie and Burghead could potentially be suitable.
Moray Speyside Tourism’s operations manager, Cameron Taylor, confirmed the idea was something the group had been looking into along with the local authority.
Mr Taylor previously worked as a director of tourism in Orkney, and said he would investigate whether the model used there to attract cruise liners could work to Moray’s advantage.
He said: “The constraint at the moment is that the nearest cruise liner port is at Invergordon, which is too far away for passengers to come off and have a relaxing exploration of Moray.
“But if we could get passengers off the liners in the Moray Firth, then we may be able to open up the area to some new avenues of visitor trade.
“It’s early days but we are looking at the size of the market, and the costs of advertising to cruise liner firms, and we consider this a very exciting opportunity.”
Mr Taylor added that as cruise lines often attracted repeat customers, they were constantly on the lookout for new places to visit, and Moray could provide an ideal destination for a number of companies.
Speaking at yesterday’s summit, chairman of tourism body VisitScotland, Mike Cantlay, praised the north-east’s role in bringing tourists to the country.
Mr Cantlay said: “Tourism in Moray and the Highlands and islands has done very well, and I commend those in the industry here for every effort they make in keeping up that momentum.”