The Port of Aberdeen in Scotland has enjoyed perhaps its busiest-ever year in tourist numbers thanks to its newly opened deepwater South Harbour. 

A total of 43 “calls” were made to Aberdeen by cruise liners in the 2023 “summer season” and that number is expected to increase in 2024, according to port authorities.

Thousands of visitors disembarked and the knock-on effect was “a wave of success” for local businesses, according to the local business development agency Aberdeen Inspired.

Aberdeen Inspired chief executive Adrian Watson said: “There is no doubt our city centre is riding on a welcome wave of success thanks to the record-breaking cruise season at the Port of Aberdeen.

“Each ship that arrives at the new South Harbour brings a massive influx of visitors into the heart of the Granite City, all of them enjoying and boosting the great shops, restaurants, bars and attractions we have.”

It is estimated that each passenger spends at least £130 ($158) per shore visit to Aberdeen.

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Watson added: “Cruise ships are transforming the tourism industry in Aberdeen and the north-east, becoming a major driver for footfall and growth in the Granite City. With even more calls already in place for 2024, the cruise ship sector has set course to become an economic powerhouse for Aberdeen and the region.”

Deeper harbour, deeper pockets

A key to Aberdeen’s bumper 2023 was the port’s new South Harbour. With a deeper draught and new infrastructure, it is able to attract and accommodate much larger vessels.

A spokesperson for the port explained: “For decades, our North Harbour has been a port of call for smaller, boutique cruise ships. With the recent opening of our deepwater South Harbour, we are equipped with the necessary water depth and infrastructure to accommodate larger cruise vessels up to 300m in length. Port of Aberdeen has now become the gateway to one of the UK’s most untapped tourist destinations.”

Port CEO Bob Sanguinetti pointed out: “More than 250 cruise ships sail past Aberdeen every year and we want to attract as much of that business to the port as we can.”

Aberdeen, known as the Granite City due to its architecture and local resources, has been a tourist destination for many years as it benefits from its proximity to the Grampian mountains.

Lord Provost of the city (the Scottish equivalent to a mayor) David Cameron said the increased tourist traffic was a much-needed boost for the city and region: “The arrival of cruise ships and their passengers in Aberdeen has given such a boost both economically and in terms of growing the city’s reputation as a welcoming and attractive tourist destination.

“For me, one of the most pleasing aspects has been the positive feedback from visitors about their time in Aberdeen and I am sure they will have gone home spreading the word to families and friends about what our city and region has to offer.”