The cancellation of a cruise ship to Portland due to protests is estimated to have cost the local economy £400,000, it is claimed.

Business owners in Weymouth have spoken out about their "frustration" after a cruise ship decided against docking at Portland Port at the weekend.

The huge liner Regal Princess carrying thousands of passengers decided not to dock at the port on Saturday due to ongoing safety concerns over two protests just outside the port on the same day.

Stand Up to Racism Dorset and the NO TO THE BARGE Group both held protests against plans to house asylum seekers on a barge at Portland Port. A number of police officers were in attendance but the demos passed off peacefully. 

While some cruise ship passengers go on excursions around the region many of them choose to stay local and go sight-seeing around Portland or visit Weymouth town centre - and many shops benefit from visitors spending money in the town. Some traders order in extra stock if they know a ship is due to call in.

Portland Port estimated the loss to local business as £400,000, based on industry statistics on spend per head by passengers as well as spend by crew and additional revenues for local transport operators and other suppliers.

The port is due to welcome more than 50 cruise ships from around the world this year and the Regal Princess was the first to cancel blaming protests. Another ship stopped off yesterday but its arrival earlier than planned was due to the weather.

Weymouth butcher Dennis Spurr of the Fantastic Sausage Factory Ltd ordered in extra supplies, especially for the arrival of the Regal Princess on Saturday.

He said: "We always do really well with cruise ship tourists, they tend to like our shop, it is quirky and funny.

"I bought in extra rolls for the day, we can sell 100 extra rolls on a good day when the weather is nice.

"We cooked extra sausages which we had to throw away.

"It wasn't until 9am that we even heard the cruise ship wasn't coming.

"It is ridiculous, I am not for the barge I don't like the way it has been done but this has clearly hurt the local economy.

"It is a long winter in Weymouth, we need to try and make every penny we can in the summer.

"I certainly don't want this to happen again, businesses here rely on the cruise ship trade."

"If they want to make a difference, protest at Number 10"

Dorset Echo: Roly's Fudge Pantry in WeymouthRoly's Fudge Pantry in Weymouth (Image: Cristiano Magaglio)

The manager of Roly’s Fudge Pantry Danny Suansrakaew said: “It is a shame. I would like the tourists in our town. It brings in extra to the economy and makes the town look nice, having different nationalities around."

He added: “I would rather they don’t protest here. I would rather they go to Downing Street and protest there where they can make a difference. If they want to make a protest, go to number 10.

“We are the ones suffering not them. The cruise ships will just go elsewhere.

“Imagine 1,000 people in our town it boosts our economy. It all makes a difference to trade.”

Debbie Harris, the owner of Bija, scheduled four extra staff in anticipation of the Saturday visit.

She said: “We noticed it wasn’t around. When a cruise ship is in business can triple.

“We still had a very busy day, but the cruise ships do bring in a lot.

“It would be a big loss to not have cruise ships during the season.

“I was very disappointed it didn’t come in.”

Sara Evans, the owner of Bibi's Boutique however did not see a big impact. She said: “We were really busy. Saturday was our busiest Saturday of the year. Some of the cruise ships are ok. We do quite well with the American ones.”

Dorset Echo: Rosie Lawlor, the owner of Rosies Retro Classics said: “I think it is the least we can do as a town is accommodate people. If we can have both the cruises and the bargeRosie Lawlor, the owner of Rosies Retro Classics said: “I think it is the least we can do as a town is accommodate people. If we can have both the cruises and the barge (Image: Cristiano Magaglio)

Rosie Lawlor, the owner of Rosies Retro Classics said: “I get a few customers when the cruise ships come in, it depends on who is on them.

“From a business point of view, the cruise ships do quite well.

“I think it is the least we can do as a town is accommodate people. If we can have both the cruises and the barge.”

Cost to the local economy "outweighs" loss to Port

Bill Reeves, chief executive of Portland Port, said: “Cruise calls to Portland Port contribute £10m to the local economy every year.

“The visit by the Regal Princess alone would have generated approximately £400,000 for local businesses.

“This includes spending in shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, tourist attractions, for guides and taxis as well as for those in the supply chain such as bus and coach operators and through indirect spend.

“The port has also lost berthing fees but this is significantly outweighed by the overall cost to the local economy.

“Cruise calls not only create and support local jobs and the economy, they generate significant exposure for the area and help to encourage return visits.

“All other cruise calls are continuing as planned over the remainder of the season. Indeed, we were able to accommodate the Norwegian Dawn on Monday after she requested to arrive early due to bad weather elsewhere.

“She had 2,360 guests on board, around half of which went into Weymouth on Monday evening, spending money in restaurants, cafes, bars and take-aways, and by all accounts having a great time.”

Business leader says cancellation needs to be a "one-off"

Paul Appleby, Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce President called for assurances that the cancellation would be a "one-off".

He said: "When I heard about the cancellation my heart went out to all the businesses of Weymouth and Portland that rely on the increase of visitor numbers the cruise ships bring.

"These businesses plan forward and invest forward and this time last year they would have set themselves up in the knowledge that a number of cruise visitors would be visiting throughout the next 12 months. 

"Businesses of the area now need assurance that this is a one-off cancellation and not the start of a trend.

"I’ve not heard or read any reaction from the Home Office or the Multi Agency Forum who have been tasked with managing the barge’s arrival and the asylum seekers' housing for the duration of their stay.

"We need them to manage this cancellation issue, not just PR statements but assure every cruise line and visitor that visiting Weymouth and Portland is a fun, safe and relaxing place to visit and stay right now and in the future."

Cruise company says cancellation was due to "safety" concerns

In a previous statement to the Echo, Princess Cruises said: "Due to protests anticipated in Portland, UK, on Saturday, July 8, Regal Princess will bypass its scheduled call there and spend the day at sea instead.

"The decision was made in the interest of the safety and security of our guests and crew following our security team’s consultation with local authorities.

"We regret any disappointment this unexpected itinerary change may cause our guests."