PREPARATIONS to welcome cruise visitors to West Fife are well under way despite a drop in the number of ships docking at Rosyth this year.

A total of 30 liners are expected to start arriving from April – compared to 36 last year – and local businesses are being encouraged to capitalise from the potential surge in customers.

Cruise Forth project manager Peter Wilson played down the reduction of boats.

He said it may see West Fife becoming an excursion destination for passengers docking at other ports.

"What we saw last year was ships running excursions to Fife from Newhaven so while some have chosen to locate at Newhaven, it may turn out better for Dunfermline," he explained.

"We may see excursions to Dunfermline, Culross and other places being sold on board as packages.

"Overall, the number of ships on the Forth is slightly up. I think we were 108 last year and there will be 111 coming to the River Forth this year."

Mr Wilson said the reduction was down to one ship being sold by its owners after coming to Rosyth for a final visit in June while another had decided to stop at Newhaven this year instead.

With the cruise industry booming, he is confident that opportunities will continue to arise – with more ships doing turnaround stops, meaning more need for hotel and taxis for passengers at the beginning and end of their trips.

Cruise Forth has been working closely with Dunfermline Delivers to help as many businesses as possible benefit from potential extra customers.

"We have got a session with businesses on March 19 and that is for those who are new to it to explain how it works. I will speak to them specifically about what ships are coming and on what days, as well as things like what language they will be speaking."

Dunfermline Delivers Business Improvement District (BID) manager, Lisa Edwards, said the tourism trend was rising very year.

"The cruise passengers have had a huge impact on this and the businesses in Dunfermline," she said.

"We work closely with Cruise Forth and LTA to make sure we capitalise as a town centre during all visits.

"We do a year's set-up meeting with the businesses and Peter to establish how many ships are coming in and when, how many passengers and how to best help them.

"We run quarterly business ambassador 'Familiarisation' visits for the BID to promote and support our tourist offering.

"We email out to all the businesses and use our social media platforms and partners to promote when we have visitors coming to Dunfermline.

"Our free WiFi in town has been upgraded to support our visitors from abroad and we work alongside Fife Council to promote visitor information with Fife Tourism Partnership."

Ms Edwards said local businesses were keen to get involved.

She added: "Bryan Beveridge, our local High Street butcher, gets cruise ship passengers and visitors in all the time, keen to try local food offering. The retail shops benefit from increased spend and our cafes, restaurants and bars have increased visits too.

"On one occasion, Sew Yarn Crafty had a visit from one of the on-board events staff, who then brought back the whole class she was working with on the ship to stock up."