Orkney is set for another bumper year for tourism with 145 cruise ships booked in for 2017. The cruise ships bring in to Orkney over 100,000 passengers in addition to 30,000 crew. Many shops in Kirkwall, tour operators, bus and taxi companies and cafes all benefit from the money that the visitors spend.
Over 5 years there has been an increase of 300% in cruise ship passenger numbers according to the O.I.C’s Marine Services . The short sea John O’Groats Ferry is also able to accommodate 250 passengers and operates a daily service from 1st May. Travellers also arrive via the Northlink and Pentalina ferries, Kirkwall airport and by our popular marinas.
The importance of tourism to rural and island economies has been documented in research conducted by Visit Scotland.
Tourism in Orkney employs 1,200 people which is 12% of the local workforce. This is a much higher rate than in Scotland as a whole at 9%.
Now that the UK is set to leave the EU there will be huge implications for the tourism industry in Orkney. If there is a fall in the £ it will certainly be cheaper for visitors from outside the UK to holiday in Orkney. This could result in people choosing to stay for longer visits.
There are major concerns, however, over how current EU funding programmes that help economic development and business support will be replaced. It is not known if there will be continued financial support for these programmes once we are out the EU.
The tourism sector also involves a higher proportion of small businesses than other industries. Many of these are in the area of Food and Drink which will also be seriously affected with the loss of the free trade of the single market.
Leaving the EU is daily throwing up more questions for all sectors of Orkney’s economy.
The Orkney News will continue to report on this issue as more information is available including how the possible use of border controls would work in Orkney at our harbours, marinas and airports.
Reporter : Fiona Grahame
I’d like to see the issue of sustainable tourism – or lack of it – addressed. Cruise ships have pros and cons which are rarely discussed owing to the economic driver. There is a major study of ‘volume tourism’ underway at present commissioned by OIC and HIE and being undertaken by (ship-friendly!) external consultants. It will be interesting to see what they recommend…
Historic Environment Scotland is also involved in the study. The Orkney News will report on the progress it makes and the discussion around it.The report will also need to take into consideration how the OIC will implement border controls on this volume of visitors coming into Orkney once the UK exits the EU if it fails to remain in the single market.