Bosses at one of the north-east’s most popular tourist attractions are confident they can lure a record number of visitors by 2020.
Macduff Marine Aquarium is overseen by Aberdeenshire Council and is currently closed for a major refurbishment.
Yesterday the local authority’s head of lifelong leisure and learning John Harding announced that the visitor centre would host a “celebration” later this year to mark its reopening and 20th anniversary.
Mr Harding admitted that the 12-week closure would cause a “hiccough” and drop in visitors this year, but anticipated footfall to continually increase from when the doors reopen at the end of the summer.
In the past 12 months 51,298 visitors have toured the aquarium. Mr Harding and his team anticipate the annual numbers can be boosted to 56,000 by 2020.
Local councillor Ross Cassie said: “I welcome the on-going work and the future work. It has been the top small aquarium on Tripadvisor.”
Fellow Troup representative Mark Findater said: “The staff do a great job. The aquarium is one of the assets we have in Macduff for the region. That’s down to the staff and folk come from all over the world to see it.”
Mr Findlater added that the visitor centre must now have a clear business plan to ensure innovative ideas are translated into economic success.
This year the council is investing around £425,000 in refurbishing the aquarium and promoting its 20th anniversary.
The central kelp tank has been drained of around 400,000 litres of water and all the resident fish have been craned out into “lifeboat tanks”.
Macduff Marine Aquarium is anticipated to remain closed until the end of July.