CalMac have agreed to have the MV Isle of Lewis do an extra sailing between Stornoway and Ullapool on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer.
The decision was made at a stakeholder meeting this week with the aim of supporting the isles’ tourism industry.
CalMac will now approach Transport Scotland to have the extra sailings confirmed, and funding secured for a ten-week period.
Derek Mackay, Scottish Government Minister for Transport and Islands, committed to two days of extra sailings during the busiest tourism period, and the stakeholder meeting determined that an extra sailing on Fridays and Saturdays would be most beneficial.
Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry Association had an online survey available to those who wanted to put forward their views on the best times for the extra crossings.
Ian Fordham, Chairman of the Outer Hebrides Tourism Industry Association, said that they wanted to get an objective view about the best option for the tourism industry on the islands, and stakeholders were unanimous in their decision to have an extra Saturday sailing, it being CalMac’s busiest day in previous years.
The choice for the second day was between either a Monday or a Friday sailing, and due to the fact that CalMac had three Friday sailings during the summer last year the group decided that the Friday would be best.
He said: “There was a clear message from the minister that he would support two extra days of sailings through the busiest period for island tourism.
“We’re very confident that the extra sailings are going to enable extra visitors to come to the islands during peak times.”
As plans currently stand there will be an Isle of Lewis sailing from Stornoway at 10:30am and a return sailing from Ullapool at 2:30pm.
Mr Fordham continued: “We think that in terms of timings it’s absolutely perfect to accommodate tourists. They can check out of accommodation in the morning and it gives plenty of time to reach the ferry, and when they are back on the mainland they’ll have time to reach anywhere in Scotland in the same day. Arriving tourists will have time to travel to Ullapool and will arrive in time to check in to accommodation.
“CalMac will now write to Transport Scotland and we are encouraging the Minister to advance it as soon as possible.”
Mr Fordham stressed that, once confirmed, it is important to make people aware that the extra sailings are going to be available.
Although it is still to be confirmed, the offer by the Minister for Transport and Islands and the decision that was made by the stakeholders at the meeting was to have the MV Isle of Lewis operational for ten weeks during the busiest summer perioud.
Plans are to have this period of operation come in to play at the end of June, and continue until early September, as these were the busiest weeks for tourism last year.