Visitor numbers up in the islands

Tourism injects £100 million into economies, survey finds

Skara Brae
• Tourism is a major economic driver for Scotland’s islands. Tourist attractions on Orkney include Skara Brae.

SCOTLAND’s northern islands are welcoming more visitors than ever before, according to a recent survey.

The Islands Visitor Survey 2012-2013, commissioned by several public sector and tourism bodies including VisitScotland, found that over 425,000 people visited the Outer Hebrides, Shetland and Orkney between 2012 and 2013, contributing over £100 million to the islands’ local economies.
The Outer Hebrides attracted the most visitors, with 218,196 people, up from 171,137 in 2006, while Shetland visitor numbers increased from 60,000 to 64,655 over the same period.
Orkney was said to have welcomed 142,816 visitors, a small increase on the 141,974 reported for 2008-2009.
Three quarters of respondents to the recent survey said they would be ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly likely’ to return in the next five years for a holiday or short break.
Satisfaction levels among visitors to the islands were said to be high with around 80% of visitors stating they were “very satisfied” with their visit.
Around 40% of respondents also said they had shared their experiences online during and after their trip, with almost one third uploading photos of their visit to social media sites.
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said the survey demonstrated that tourism is a key economic driver for many of Scotland’s islands.
“It is great to see that visitor numbers are rising, particularly given the challenging economic climate and that tourism continues to prove it’s a resilient and sustainable industry,” he said.
“With their breathtaking landscapes, rich archaeological history and exciting visitor attractions Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides are incredible places to visit time and time again.”
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said the survey results were a “credit to the people working in the hotels and tourism sector on our islands”.
“With beautiful scenery, rich history and diverse culture it’s no surprise that Scotland’s islands are attracting more visitors and encouraging them to spend more and stay longer,” said Ewing. “In this year of Homecoming as we prepare to host both the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, I am confident that 2014 will be a remarkable year for tourism.”
Conducted between October 2012 and September 2013, the survey was carried out in partnership with Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland.