Digging up a boost to the economy

Could the past be the foundation for a better economic future in the Western Isles?
Could the past be the foundation for a better economic future in the Western Isles?

Tourism related to archaeology is worth approximately £4m and 80 jobs in the Western Isles, but has the potential to be worth £8m and 160 jobs.

The findings are part of an economic assessment on the value of tourism archaeology commissioned by the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Data contained within the Outer Hebrides Visitor Survey and consultation with key stakeholders were the main sources of information for the study.

By examining tourist volumes and levels of engagement with archaeology reported by visitors the study estimated the current value of such tourism.

To determine the future potential such tourims the study drew a comparison between the Outer Hebrides and Orkney.

Over a ten year period the study assumes an uplift of 10% in holiday visitors specifically attracted to the Outer Hebrides to engage with archaeology and an increase in the numbers of existing holiday, visiting friends and family and business visitors engaging with archaeology.

This model results in £8m total visitor spend per annum, supporting 160 Full time equivalent employees.

The report recommends several first steps which could generate growth including the development of an archaeology based, Outer Hebrides-wide trail.

This trail would be achieved through the identification of key places, the development of online and paper based promotional materials, installation of interpretation and improvements to access and facilities in some locations.

Sustainable Development Chairman, Donald Crichton, said: “Archaeology is of significant benefit to the Islands and its development offers opportunities for economic growth but that will require time, commitment and investment”.

An application is being made to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Great Place’ Scheme to assist with developing tourism and public engagement related to all aspects of heritage in the Islands, taking the recommendations of this report into account.