Scottish ports have joined forces, creating Cruise Scotland, an organization to promote and market ports and visitor attractions internationally.

“Scotland is a great destination for a range of cruises, with so much for passengers to see and do within easy reach of established ports on the mainland and islands,” said the group’s chairman, Richard Alexander. “Now is a very opportune time to be stepping up our efforts, with greater scope for cruise lines to include Scotland in their itineraries.”
Scotland’s Minister for Tourism, Jim Mather, said: “Tourism makes an important contribution to the Scottish economy and it is vital that we continue to look at new and innovative ways of attracting new visitors to our great country. We need to capitalise on new opportunities and ensure that Scotland remains ahead of the game.

“Scotland is becoming an increasingly popular destination for cruise ships and our industry is set to take full advantage as a result of this exciting new initiative. With dollars and euros now able to go much further for overseas visitors, this is the perfect time to make cruise operators aware of the fantastic tourist attractions we have to offer and attract new visitors to Scotland,” Mather added.

“There is no better time to visit Scotland with our Homecoming celebrations bringing with them a fantastic chance to attract many more visitors to Scotland throughout 2009. With an excellent range of over 300 events taking place across the country, there will be something for everyone,” he said.

Cruise Scotland also has the support of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Scottish Enterprise and VisitScotland.

Denise Hill, VisitScotland’s Head of International Marketing said: “It is great to see the cruise industry working together in this way to develop plans for the future. In the current economic situation this kind of joint working is important, as is a focus on improving the quality of our visitors’ experience while they are in Scotland.

“The international cruise market is set to grow, and we are keen to understand more of the opportunities presented by new types of cruise passenger, including special interest and more active cruise passengers who are keen to explore Scotland.”

With recruitment ongoing, Cruise Scotland members to date include: Aberdeen Harbour Board; Argyll & Bute Council (Oban); Clydeport Operations Ltd (Greenock); Cruise Highlands Ltd (Invergordon); Excursions Ltd (Edinburgh); Highland Council (Portree); Lerwick Port Authority; Morrison Tours (Leith); Orkney Cruise Services; Orkney Harbours; Peterhead Port Authority; Scrabster Harbour Trust; Stornoway Port Authority; and Ullapool Harbour Trust.

Scottish ports already serve various itineraries, from trans-Atlantic, North Atlantic and North West Europe cruises, to round-Britain and niche markets, such as golf and bird and marine life watchers.

With an initial three-year marketing strategy, Cruise Scotland is looking to expand its market by 10 percent year-on-year. Scotland enjoyed a 48 percent share, worth more than £37 million, of all cruise ship calls in the UK in 2008, when a record 377 ships and around 202,000 passengers arrived in Scottish ports. The larger vessels now operating add further to the significance of higher vessel numbers. By comparison, Scottish ports handled 169 cruise ships and 64,902 passengers in 1998.

Scotland’s numerous attractions include stunning scenery and vibrant cities; culture and heritage; local produce, whisky distilleries and crafts; wildlife and golf.