The importance of the Islands tourism market was highlighted at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar this week as members discussed encouraging information revealed by the Islands Visitor Survey 2017.
Key points of note from the Survey were:
Total visitor numbers was 218,965 (Leisure visitors – 68% (up from 54% in 2013), Business/ Work – 19%, Visiting friends and relatives – 12%).
The islands attract leisure visitors from all over the world. The largest proportion comes from Scotland (55%) and the rest of the UK (28%). Overseas visitors are predominantly from Europe (16%) and North America (6%).
Of all leisure visitors, 82% stated that they were ‘very satisfied’ with their trip to the Outer Hebrides. Friendliness of local people and standards of accommodation received the highest satisfaction scores.
The quality and value for money of visitor attractions was commended and the quality of local food produce, arts and crafts also received praise.
The most significant area of dissatisfaction was the poor extent and quality of digital connectivity (mobile networks, wifi, 3/4G).
The average spend per capita of visitors was £309, up from £245 in 2013. For leisure visitors, average spend was higher at £344.
This gives an estimated value from tourism spend in the Outer Hebrides in 2017 of £64.5m – and increase of 20% from £53.5m in 2013.
Chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee, Councillor Donald Crichton, said: “The potential of tourism to create employment, generate income and retain population in the Outer Hebrides has been recognised for some time; however it is only in recent years, with a truly strategic and co-ordinated approach from stakeholders, that significant growth has been achieved.
“The findings of the Outer Hebrides Visitor Survey 2017 are extremely welcome and encouraging, demonstrating that the region is on-course to achieve the ambitious sectoral targets outlined in the Tourism Outer Hebrides 2020 Strategy.
“The availability of this data and insight is a significant resource which will inform the work of the TOH 2020 Group and its constituent partner organisations going forward.
“Local control of the Tourism Marketing budget has enabled the Comhairle, in conjunction with the TOH 2020 Leadership Group, to deliver initiatives to support and further develop the promotion of the Outer Hebrides in a responsive, innovative and multi-layered way.”