Highland tourism companies are thinking outside of the box to cater for cruise ship passengers, with trips to farms among plans to lure visitors back to the north.
Travellers are looking for something different as the industry recovers from the pandemic, Invergordon’s cruise manager said today.
Allison McGuire was speaking during a presentation about the Highland cruise industry and its recovery plans.
Highland Tourism held the online event in partnership with the Port of Cromarty Firth to discuss the cruise industry specifically. More than 40 members of the Highland tourism community attended.
They were given an overview of the developments within the cruise industry over the last 12 months from representatives of Port of Cromarty Firth.
It was reported that cruise ship bookings at Invergordon in 2022 are expected to surpass 2019 figures as people will have a renewed appetite for exploration.
The cruise business next year will be worth in the region of £20 million to the local economy and is set to exceed passengers numbers in 2019 0f 167,000.
Ms McGuire said the region should find new ways to cash in through offering some more authentic experiences.
She said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to create new tours for our returning guests.
“Passengers want to be immersed in wildlife. They want to see Highland cattle, they want to see how a local farm works.
“They want more heritage, we need to get tours with storytellers in fancy dress. They want to interact with local people. They want more traditional food and drink.
“It is not going to be all coach tours going forward. We need to think outside the box. What can we offer that no-one else is offering?”
She added: “Today was a great opportunity to work with Highland Tourism to communicate our optimism for the future of cruise business in the Highlands to members of the local tourism community.
“With a high level of demand for port calls for 2022 and work ongoing by the Scottish Government for the safe reintroduction in 2021 when restrictions are lifted, we are confident that we will see this sector bounce back.”
Attendees heard that 60% of all passengers to Invergordon were from Germany and the USA in 2019, with a growing desire to have unique and authentic Highland experiences including more food and drink and adventure offerings.
Ms McGuire said: “The outlook is indeed very comforting however we must rethink how we do things and up our game in the Highlands to ensure we continue to deliver a unique and memorable experience for visitors.
“I welcome tourism businesses from across all sectors to make contact with us with ideas they may have – a collaborative approach will assist in the success and continued growth of cruise business in the Highlands and value to the local economy.”
The cruising industry has worked hard on the “road to restart” and extensive protocols are now in place for when cruising is permitted again, with stringent staff and passenger pre-embarkation testing and distancing in place along with strict processes for shore excursions.
Highland Tourism co-founder, Yvonne Crook, said: “Today’s Highland Tourism Talks: Cruising event with Port of Cromarty Firth was encouraging, particularly in hearing the positive outlook for 2022.
“This is just one sector in tourism across the Highlands and its value underpins Highland Tourism CIC’s message that a comprehensive and collaborative come-back plan for tourism in the Highlands is critically needed to ensure that both businesses and communities survive and thrive.”