More needed on tourism

Outer Hebrides Tourism – the public-private body which promotes the islands’ tourism – is looking for a new chief executive following the decision of current incumbent, Rob Mackinnon, to stand down.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 8:56 am
The islands have an understandable tourism draw, but more needs to be done in terms of facilities to increase the visitor spend

The post was originally funded for three years and Mr Mackinnon took over in 2018 after a senior career in hospitality and marketing. He was previously vice-chair of the organisation and has tourism interests in Harris, with which he has family connections.

With a further three years funding from HIE, his successor will have the task of delivering the organisation’s strategy, published last year. Mr Mackinnon said that ideally he would like to see a younger person with Gaelic roots taking over the role.

The advertisement for the post, which carries a salary of £45-50,000 a year, says the successful applicant must live “in the Outer Hebrides” and be responsible for “delivery and implementation of the 2030 OHT strategy and business plan”.

Mr Mackinnon said his experience had taught him that the islands had to create “a more active tourism product” if it was going to maximise the benefits from the industry. This meant establishing more facilities and events for visitors to spend money on, creating jobs and adding value.

He said that research shows that visitor spend on Skye is twice that of the Western Isles. The average stay in the islands is six days, three on Skye, but the money spent per visitor is the same.

A strong believer in “heritage and cultural tourism”, Mr Mackinnon said he had visited Gozo, off Malta, last year and found it “quite a learning journey”. He explained: “There is a population of 40,000, one major town and many villages and an amazing tourism dynamic, lots of it based on heritage. We have a lot to learn”.

He will be retaining an interest in tourism as part-time liaison officer for OHT with the Islands Deal which includes a cruise ship terminal as part of the Stornoway Harbour redevelopment, the three Slighe Hiort locations and Callanish.

Outer Hebrides Tourism is the membership body for the industry in the islands representing 400 independent businesses across all sectors of the community. Tourism is estimated to be a £74 million a year to the islands.