A ‘clear plan’ is needed for Skye

Support and forward-planning essential to future of tourism on island

The Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle is one of Skye’s top tourist destinations
The Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle is one of Skye’s top tourist destinations

IMPROVED infrastructure and a co-ordinated long-term tourism strategy for the Isle of Skye are crucial as the island’s visitor numbers continue to soar.

That’s the view of destination management organisation SkyeConnect, which said there needs to be a clear plan for the next decade and beyond in order to cater for tourists.

The group, which was set up in March and is headed by Shirley Spear, owner of The Three Chimneys; Anne Gracie of The Sonas Group, whose portfolio includes the Toravaig, Skeabost and Duisdale House hotels; and accommodation provider Rob Ware, said investment in infrastructure is vital to the island’s booming tourism industry.

A meeting in Portree last month, hosted by Kate Forbes MSP and attended by business leaders and stakeholders, set out the opportunities and challenges for tourism on Skye. Issues included a lack of parking at many of Skye’s top visitor attractions, including the Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle, which is the subject of a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to extend the car park; a lack of public toilets; and poor broadband connectivity.

Speaking to SLTN, Rob Ware of SkyeConnect said it’s vital all parties work together to sustain and grow tourism on Skye.

“We have seen a huge influx in visitors to Skye, which is great,” he said.

“But in July and August, for example, you can’t get accommodation; it’s full. And that can have a negative impact – if people can’t get a room, can’t park, can’t find public toilets. Broadband connection is another major issue – there are parts of Skye with little or no connectivity. We need a co-ordinated strategy on how we manage things in the short, medium and long-term, particularly how we manage visitor expectations.

“Last year in particular saw a real spike in visitor numbers and there’s no indication that won’t continue. It’s very positive, we just need the infrastructure to support it.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “VisitScotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Highland Council are already working with the tourism industry on Skye to manage visitor pressure.

“Our Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme has delivered a new future-proofed sub-sea fibre connection which links Skye to the mainland and other islands.”

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: “Five public toilets are run directly by the council on the Isle of Skye. Where we receive requests for additional facilities in an area, we will assess existing provision there. If we believe that we need to provide additional facilities, we will approach local businesses or community facilities and ask them to participate in our Comfort Scheme. We do not currently have established criteria for providing public toilets, such as population density or visitor footfall, but this is something we will be adopting in the future.”