It’s fantastic news that Liverpool has won its High Court battle against Southampton, and doesn’t have to pay back the £18million it received in European grants, to help regenerate our facilities. Now it’s full steam ahead for our resurgent port, and who knows where that will lead?
“Liverpool’s waterfront was always the gateway to the city. It’s great to think that it could be again,” Liverpool’s Cruise Operations Manager, Angie Redhead says.
There is a sea change in cruising. Whereas once the pursuit was the preserve of retired company execs, Americans on a grand tour and empty nesters, now they’re one of the travel world’s fastest rising sectors. In the UK they’re a £2billion industry. And we’ll have a slice of that, thanks very much.
They’re statistics Angie knows only too well. And they’re why her and her team have been working tirelessly to transform our £21 million Pier Head terminal into a full turnaround facility – with the city welcoming a record 58 ships this season.
Now, following EU officials ruling that the city doesn’t have to pay back European funding (Southampton was crying foul play, and demanding that we refund every penny), Cruise Liverpool can plan for a future which includes a purpose built new terminal building at the Nicholas Island site on Pier Head.
Changing Liverpool’s operations to a full ‘turnaround’ is set to see the city’s economy spike by up to £2m per ship into the city, as passengers chose to overnight here ahead of their journey.
VisitBritain’s Director of Travel Trade, Carl Walsh, said: “Liverpool’s done an incredible job of promoting itself as a world-class cruise port, and the fact that it’s done it in such a short time is almost unheard of.”
As Walsh states, our attractions – and our compact city centre – are tailor made for this new, buffet-style of travelling. And, er, let’s face it: it’s no wonder Southampton was pissed off. I mean, who’d willingly start their holiday there? Or, for that matter, end it? For us, it’s a Bestival embarkation point at best.
“It’s not surprising Liverpool’s such a hit with cruise passengers,” Walsh says, “as it offers unsurpassed visitor attractions within a half hour walk from the terminal, and such amazing history, not to mention the legacy of the Beatles. Put these together, and Liverpool’s appeal to Americans is a no brainer…”
Few world class cities have arrival points right at their heart – New York, Sydney and Stockholm do, and, after a fashion, so does Venice – but Liverpool’s new terminal is right alongside our UNESCO World Heritage site, and so finding a suitable location was always going to be an issue.
“Our marine infrastructure is considered the best in Europe,” Angie says, “But, because of the restrictions on the size of our site, we’re limited in what we can offer. But, considering all that, we’ve rolled out a facility that can deal with up to 3,500 passengers arriving. And we’ve done it at breakneck speed.”
Turnaround, Angie says, is about two things. Space and time. Get them right, and you can welcome today’s mega-liners, such as the recently arrived Discovery, the first of many this year.
“Passengers tell us that they’d like an alternative to Southampton, especially those from the north of England,” Angie says of a possible future positioning for Liverpool: that of a northern alternative to Southampton’s successful south coast operation.
We’ve always known how to extend a hand of friendship in Liverpool. And we know a thing or two about embarking on great voyages too. Maybe now is the time, finally, for us to return to our rightful position as the gateway to the world. Not merely a day’s shore leave.