Sustaining cruise success in Scotland’s Orkney archipelago

Orkeny Harbours’ Paul Olvohj discusses why balancing the needs of the local community and cruise guests is crucial to ensuring the best experience for all 

Sustaining cruise success in Scotland’s Orkney archipelago

Orkney Harbours

By Guest |

Home to dramatic natural landscapes, unique wildlife and the remains of our neolithic past, Orkney has long attracted a diverse range of visitors. The fascinating sights and experiences on offer in the islands have helped make it the most popular cruise destination in the UK for transit callers, with vessels of all sizes and shapes making visits to the towns of Kirkwall and Stromness.  

In 2024, we are expecting over 250 vessels to arrive between March and October at 15 locations across the archipelago, with more than 200,000 guests coming ashore to visit such iconic locations as Skara Brae, St Magnus Cathedral or the Italian Chapel. How an island with a population just over 22,000 people manage days when more than 5,000 guests disembark from a visiting cruise ship is a critical question for the local harbour authority operated by Orkney Islands Council. The needs of the local community must be balanced with the drive to provide the best visitor experiences in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.  

We took the first step of developing a cruise booking policy as part of a process we believe will enhance our cruise guests’ visits by ensuring we berth the right vessel in the right location to provide the best experience for all. Our success is built on our destinations, our facilities, and the number of shore excursion itineraries we can provide, so we also want to prepare for the future. We are currently planning a major expansion of our main cruise berth at Hatston Pier. If the project is approved, we will increase the length of the pier to 685 metres, create more space just off the quay, and provide a range of facilities for bunkering cruise ships with future fuels and supplying shore power. 

Currently, both the local and national discussions revolve around proposed new visitor levies (tourist taxes), including those for cruise vessels. As a local authority-owned port that handles many cruise calls, we possess a unique insight into both the marine and civil sector. We are keen to work with all parties to ensure we reach the right solution. We must balance the economic benefit the cruise industry provides with ensuring our community is supportive and this is a further challenge that is critical for our future as a destination.  

Paul Olvhoj is business development manager for Orkney Harbours 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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