The Scottish government’s decision to ban cruise ship calls has been branded ‘disappointing’ and ‘puzzling’ in a letter signed by Clia, the UK Chamber of Shipping and Scottish travel agencies.
The joint letter, sent a week after MSC Virtuosa (pictured) was prevented from docking at Greenock, outlined how 900 cruise ships visited Scotland in 2019, each generating more than £100,000 for the economy.
Barrhead Travel boss Jacqueline Dobson and SPAA president Joanne Dooey were among the six signatories alongside Andy Harmer, Clia UK & Ireland director, and UK Chamber of Shipping chief executive Bob Sanguinetti.
Organisations Cruise Britain and Cruise Scotland have also signed the letter, organised by Clia.
Scottish authorities have said cruise ships can return once the entire country is level one – the lowest Covid-19 restriction level north of the border.
The joint letter reads: “It [the cruise ban] is disappointing because the cruise sector is a major contributor to the Scottish economy, providing essential revenue for our beleaguered hospitality industry, including travel agents, restaurants, bars, tour operators, tourist attractions and hotels, many of which are small businesses.
“It is puzzling because cruises have safely restarted around Britain. Stringent health protocols, put in place to protect local communities at cruise destinations, passengers, and crew, go beyond any other travel sector operating today. Scottish ports have been working closely with cruise lines for several months and have developed onshore protocols to safely manage ship arrivals.
“These are cruises carrying only UK residents travelling only between UK ports. We are therefore calling on the government to clarify what more needs to be done to enable cruise passengers – many of whom are from Scotland – to visit our shores and allow Scotland to be part of the British staycation summer.”
The Scottish government confirmed that cruise calls to the country could restart once the country had reached level one and added that a government minister would meet with industry figures, including Clia, on Friday.
A government spokesperson said: “We fully understand the impact of the current restrictions on domestic cruises and the wider travel industry.
“We explained our concerns about the transmission risks posed by cruise vessels in an update to industry on the 24 May and we were clear that we would confirm our position in June.
“Following extensive engagement with stakeholders, we have now confirmed that domestic cruises can restart when all of Scotland reaches level one and we have made industry aware of this.”
The spokesperson also added: “We are aware of concerns raised by the industry relating to this decision. The minister for business, trade, tourism & enterprise will meet with sector representatives on June 18, including Clia, to hear these concerns.”