Scotland’s flourishing cruise industry hit a brick wall with the onset of the coronavirus crisis. However, Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, points out that the cruise sector has been working hard to define the safety protocols and procedures that will allow the industry to start up again, once the timing is right.

“Before the pandemic hit, Scotland and Northern Europe were the world’s second-fastest growing cruise market, behind Asia,” Ballantyne notes.

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The travel restrictions have impacted all travel but once the world’s media began filling up with horror stories of passengers being quarantined in ports aboard virus-infected cruise ships, the global cruise industry ground to a halt. For Scotland’s cruise terminals and harbours accustomed to receiving regular visits throughout the summer season, the sudden absence of cruise-related business hit hard.

It was also tough on all those coastal and inland communities that had been doing well out of cruise ship passenger spending on excursions and visitor attractions.

Ballantyne points out, however, that some ports have benefited from the fact that operators have had to lay up vessels in harbours around the world. For some Scottish ports that has been a welcome source of additional revenue through the pandemic.

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Ballantyne points out that there is every reason for the sector to be optimistic that business will return to pre-Covid levels, once things can get started again.

“What is brilliant about the UK coastline, and Scotland’s in particular, is our network of ports combined with all the scenic attractions Scotland offers,” he points out.

This creates plenty of opportunities for operators to plan interesting and varied itineraries up and down Scotland’s east and west coasts, and to the Northern Isles.

The industry is currently working with the UK and Scottish governments to agree what needs to be done, he points out.

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“One thing that will have to change before the industry can really get going again concerns the UK and Scottish governments’ quarantine rules for passengers arriving from some overseas and European destinations,” he observes.

“We are hopeful that instead of a broad-brush regime of quarantining visitors, we can move to testing at arrival points.”

The industry has worked up some operating procedures, both generic and international, which include what needs to be done by way of onboard cleaning, social distancing and other safety measures.

This is not about clearing the way for a handful of elite ship owners. It is about jobs across the UK and beyond, including areas of Scotland that are dependent on cruise ship spending,” Ballantyne notes.

But as the cruise industry restarts post-Covid, says Ballantyne, the sector will have to make progress in addressing sustainability credentials of the sector, possibly with government support, he notes.

For more information visit www.britishports.org.uk

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