AN ambitious bid has been launched to promote Leith as a haven for cruise line tourism to reap the rewards of an untapped industry.
Marketing Leith has devised attention-grabbing stunts – such as welcoming disembarking tourists with a pipe band and holding flamboyant fireworks displays on the eve of the ship’s departure – to put the area on the map of vibrant cruise destinations.
A neon “welcome” sign could be mounted on the roof of Ocean Terminal, while a deal has been struck to distribute promotional pamphlets promoting Leith to voyagers aboard a major cruise liner.
The move to rebrand the district comes as Marketing Leith is today set to lobby the city for a slice of the funding pot granted to Marketing Edinburgh to promote the port district separately.
Forth Ports, which operates Leith docklands, has confirmed that passenger numbers from cruise vessels have “risen steadily” over recent years, with an estimated 20,000 visitors expected this year.
Alex Wilson, secretary of Marketing Leith, said it was determined to reverse the trend of cruise tourists ignoring Leith in favour of venturing to the Highlands in coaches.
“We get hundreds of passengers mooring up in the afternoon with many piling up to the north of Scotland coming back the next day and setting off on the ship. Barely one of them sets foot in Leith. The idea is that if Leith ups its game and puts on a show, that will feed back to the rest of the cruise industry and attract other liners here.
“It appears to the casual visitor that Leith is ignored and sidelined by the City of Edinburgh, and Marketing Edinburgh, which concentrates on the Old and New Towns. It means Leith is a like a desert at peak times in terms of footfall.”
He said the group was going to “challenge” Edinburgh City Council for a portion of the annual funding given to Marketing Edinburgh.
Gordon Robertson, chair of Marketing Edinburgh’s interim management group, said the agency was the “best model” to promote the Capital across international markets but welcomed “further dialogue” with Marketing Leith.
A spokesman for Forth Ports: “A large number of cruise passengers pass through the Port of Leith each year, bringing investment to the Edinburgh area, and we’re proud to be able to facilitate this boost. We are looking at upgrading our cruise terminal facilities in Leith and would welcome any initiative that helps attract visitors.”
Councillor Frank Ross, economy convener, said: “The council continues to make great efforts to work with businesses in Leith to support new initiatives and boost the local economy. These include the I Love Leith branding, the Shop Idol window dressing competitions and promotion of art work in empty shops and on shutters.
“We will continue to work closely with local groups and businesses to support economic activity in the area.”