By Gillian McKenzie
Operators and distillers on Islay could benefit from an extra tourism boost this summer after Loganair announced a 25% increase in the number of seats on its route between Glasgow and the west coast island.
The airline, a franchise partner of Flybe, is operating an extra rotation between the mainland and the Inner Hebrides’ southernmost island on select Mondays, Fridays and Sundays until September. It takes the total number of return flights on the route to three on Mondays and Fridays and two on Sundays.
Loganair chief Phil Preston said the extra seats were added on the back of the island’s growing popularity with tourists and whisky fans visiting Islay’s many distilleries.
Neil Morrison, who took over the ten-bedroom Lochside Hotel in Bowmore on Islay earlier this year, said the extra flights are “great news”.
“Accessibility is so important,” said Morrison, who also owns Macgochans on the Isle of Mull.
“Anything that makes it easier for more people to get here is great and it will benefit businesses on Islay.
“The distilleries are such a big draw; people tend to fly in from the US, Norway, Japan purely for that and to do the whisky tours. So anything that helps more people get to Islay is definitely good news.”
Peter Semple, visitor and retail facilities manager at Burn Stewart, owner of Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay, also welcomed the news.
“This period is normally a busy one for us with distillery tours and tastings getting booked up well in advance as people plan their summer holidays,” he said.
“The increased capacity that is being offered will hopefully encourage even more visitors to the island and to the Bunnahabhain Distillery, which attracts people from all over the world to experience the welcoming taste of our whisky and to see first hand the craftsmanship and passion that goes into every bottle.”
Mickey Head, Ardbeg Distillery manager, said the number of visitors to the distillery is growing year on year.
“In 2014 we welcomed over 10,000 visitors, an incredible 15% more than the previous year,” he said. “We are delighted with the new travel opportunities allowing people all over the world greater access to Islay.”
VisitScotland chief Malcolm Roughead said the additional flights will “provide a fantastic boost to Islay’s vital visitor economy”.