PLANS to lure more cruise ships to Edinburgh could see the area’s docks revamped.
With holidays on the ocean waves enjoying a surge in popularity, there has never been a better time to formulate an action plan to grab a slice of this lucrative and high-end holiday market, council chiefs believe.
Buoyed by already encouraging numbers of cruise ships berthing, tourism bosses now have a plan to revamp Leith’s harbour – making it accessible to the new breed of superliners that provide five-star luxury.
Officials want more of the ships to dock at Leith and off South Queensferry on the back of one of the strongest years for cruise tours to the Capital.
A total of 55 cruise ships visited Edinburgh this year, with 21 anchoring off South Queensferry and the rest docking in Leith.
Giant liner The Grand Mistral was among the visiting ships, bringing more than 8000 passengers on her three calls to Leith this season.
An estimated 48,600 passengers came to South Queensferry alone in 2013, generating more than £370,000 in income.
A Forth Ports spokesman, who labelled Leith as Scotland’s “marquee” docking point, said: “Bookings for the 2014 and 2015 seasons are healthy and we are working hard with our partners to continue to promote Scotland as a destination and to further enhance the cruise passenger experience when they arrive.”
With plans to build thousands of homes on the Capital’s waterfront largely abandoned due to the economic downturn, the council is now keen to transform Leith into a 21st century gateway to the east of Scotland.
A new finger pier and improved lock gates to cater for ferry services and increased cruise-liner visits are still being considered by the authority. The ambition is to grow tourism spend by £485 million a year and create an extra 8400 jobs in the sector.
VisitScotland regional director Manuela Calchini said: “Over the last ten years there has been encouraging growth in the cruise sector.
“VisitScotland has been working closely with Cruise Scotland to identify ways to support the industry in exploiting this growing opportunity for the region.
“As Scotland welcomes the world next year, all further growth in this market would be greatly welcomed.”
Cruise Scotland was given nearly £15,000 two years ago from the VisitScotland growth fund to promote Scotland as a cruise destination at trade shows.
Independent tourism group Cruise Forth, which has concentrated its work on South Queensferry and Rosyth, will be asked to promote Leith for the first time in a bid to boost visits.