LUXURY flats in one of Scotland’s poorest council areas are being sold with the incentive of a luxury cruise worth £5,000.
The seaside flats in Gourock, Inverclyde, are on sale for £200,000 to £405,000 and the sellers say the cruise is to help get over the stress of moving.
But a professor of economics at the University of Strathclyde claimed the cruise was a “sweetener” to move to a place he described as “not the most desirable in the world”.
The port town of Gourock itself boasts a Royal Yacht Club and health, employment and crime statistics that are about average for Scotland.
But the former seaside resort of 11,000 is part of Inverclyde Council, which recently recorded the highest number of drug crimes in Scotland, as well as having the second-highest rate of drunkenness and other disorderly conduct. Life expectancy is the second-lowest in Scotland.
The Gantocks development, overlooking the Firth of Clyde, is expected to be completed as early as spring next year and the show flats are open.
Estate agents Merchant Homes state on their website: “Homebuyers who snap up the offer will receive £5,000 in travel vouchers to spend on a cruise of their choice anywhere in the world.
“Recipients are free to enjoy this holiday of a lifetime with friends or family as part of this exclusive offer.”
The amount could pay for an 18-day luxury cruise trip around the Seychelles, or a transatlantic voyage to New York and Iceland.
Or buyers could choose to spend 14 days in southeast Asia on a luxury tour of the Mekong River and the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.
Merchant Homes insist the unusual offer is being made to “offset the cost and stress of moving” house.
But economics professor Robert Wright, from the University of Strathclyde, said: “Gourock is not the most desirable place in the world.
“The offer of a holiday is just a sweetener, possibly for older people who they may be marketing the apartments towards.”
He added: “They wouldn’t need to do such things if people actually wanted to live in these places. It’s a different marketing tactic designed to stand out – a bit like window dressing.
“If they didn’t do this then they would probably have lowered the prices, or offered a cashback amount.”
Ken Gibb, a professor of housing economics at the University of Glasgow, said: “I’ve never heard of an estate agents doing this before. It’s a marketing ploy because they want a competitive advantage.
“However, I don’t think people make a housing decision on the basis of a holiday. They decide based on amenities, facilities and the neighbourhood.
“Because the flats already cost several thousands of pounds, the promise of a luxury cruise shouldn’t make too much of a difference.
“The sellers may have had a positive experience offering something similar in the past. It’s a new one for me.”
Inverclyde male residents have the second-lowest life expectancy in Scotland at 73.7 years.
And a quarter of children in Inverclyde are currently living in poverty compared with the national average of 1 in 5.
Between 2013/2014, Inverclyde recorded the third highest rate for public urination – 40 incidents per 10,000 population.
But Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny strongly defended Gourock. He said: “I’m not aware of any anti-social behaviour in that area.
“The development is on the waterfront and it’s very desirable.
“I think Gourock has a great reputation – there are lots of unique independent shops and amenities.”
Joanne Spence, a spokeswoman for Merchant Homes, said: “The offer of a holiday has nothing to do with Gourock’s reputation.
“It’s a waterfront development and we thought the offer of a cruise tied in nicely to the surrounding area.
“Instead of offering cashback, carpets or curtains, this stands out a bit more – especially in the run up to Christmas.”