Plymouth gears up to market cruise in the autumn

Plymouth will be marketed as an international cruise destination from this autumn.

ABP, owner of Millbay Docks, is to promote Millbay as a cruise destination to an international audience, with vessels to be berthed alongside on the ferryport side of the dock.

Talks have been taking place with ABP, Brittany Ferries and the Council over the last few months as part of a push to get Plymouth more of a share of the important and growing UK cruise market.

It means that cruise ships could be at the existing berth by 2019, with plans being considered to extend this berth for larger ships for 2020. Up until now, the lack of a berth alongside has limited the appeal of Plymouth to cruise companies.

ABP has already commissioned engineering consultants Atkins to look at the costs and implications to the marine and shore infrastructure of Millbay.

The consultants were commissioned by the company after an economic study indicated that further significant economic advantages would be realised if larger ships could berth.

While much of the economic study and the arrangements are commercially confidential, key headlines revealed there is a clear case for investment to enable larger ships to berth, with the potential benefits to the local economy worth up to £24.8m a year, as well as over 530 jobs. Smaller cruise vessels berthing would have a beneficial effect particularly by demonstrating the potential Plymouth has to offer the cruise industry, which is critical to moving forward.

Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of the Council said: “Everyone is keen to see more cruise passengers come to Plymouth but there are lots of practical and commercial issues to be resolved.

“This is the first time the city is going to be properly marketed as a cruise destination by a company with a considerable amount of expertise in this field.

“This is pretty exciting stuff. It is very satisfying to hear experts in the cruise industry say that Plymouth has a lot to offer. We need to capitalise on our potential.”

The economic report was compiled by cruise specialist GP Wild International which was commissioned by a consortium comprising the Council, ABP, Plymouth and Devon Chamber of Commerce, Destination Plymouth and Plymouth Waterfront Partnership.

The consultants looked at the current cruise market, its future trends and the city’s possible place in this growing market.

The report highlights that each cruise passenger is worth £128 to the economy, through spend in restaurants, shops and visitor attractions, as well as the costs of port and water transport, tours and wholesale trade and services for the ships.

With an alongside berth, rather than anchorage in the Sound, the city could achieve a step change in interest as it could be more proactive in marketing the city as a port of call, it said, pointing to the recent dramatic rise of the British cruise market. Passenger numbers have doubled in six years and it is enjoying an average annual 15 per cent growth rate.

James Cooper, Chief Executive of ABP, said “For the first time, we will be able to market to the industry the ability for cruise vessels to tie up alongside in Plymouth, which will make Millbay a considerably more appealing destination in the cruise season.

“We are pleased to see that Plymouth has detailed plans for its visitor offer, especially around Mayflower 2020, so we are looking forward to working with the Council to develop a fantastic cruise offer.”

Christophe Mathieu, the new Chief Executive of Brittany Ferries said: “We employ 120 staff in our Plymouth headquarters and are delighted to be a part of supporting Plymouth to bring in cruise ships over the summer period. There are a lot of shared opportunities for our business as we believe we can improve the ferry experience by working in partnership with ABP and the Council.”

Chief Executive of Plymouth and Devon Chamber of Commerce, Richard Stevens  said: “This should enable us to take the next steps in our cruise journey. I am delighted that this will substantially improve Plymouth’s position in the cruise market and very excited that it could develop into the opportunity to be a key player on the cruise stage.”

Chris Arscott, Chair of the Plymouth Waterfront Partnership Business Improvement District said: “We are very excited by the opportunities before us but also recognise the economics of the report. The study has been detailed and made us realise there is a lot to consider but we are hugely encouraged that by working together we have made big strides forward.”

Amanda Lumley, Chief Executive of Destination Plymouth added: “The report indicates that Plymouth has a lot to offer as a destination in its own right.

“There is a huge opportunity for cruise around the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower in 2020 and our market intelligence suggests there is a big appetite for commemoration cruises from the US.

“We want more visitors and are working hard to develop Plymouth as a leading South West destination and are extremely excited by the opportunity this opens up. The combination of Mayflower 400, investments in culture and visitor infrastructure in the city are beginning to come together.”

The study looked at:

  • the opportunities for the development for cruise ship use of Millbay Docks
  • potential income streams to both the city and the port and sets a potential timetable to accept berthed cruise ships by 2020
  • how a marketable cruise product for Plymouth might be developed
  • to understand existing national and European competition and potential collaboration
  • marketplace opportunities, which ships, operators and agents to target and realistic business opportunity predictions
  • the cruise ship order books and their implication on the market place
  • visitor offer of Plymouth and future plans for the city
  • the investment needed  to market and promote the city in the cruise market.