Stornoway welcomes the world

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Celebrations to mark the 20th Hebridean Celtic Festival and a visit by 200 metre-long private residential cruise ship The World were amongst the highlights of the 2015 tourism season in the Outer Hebrides.

Visitor numbers to the Outer Hebrides’ top visitor attractions have risen, with 42,703 visiting the Calanais Visitor Centre in 2014, compared with 41,728 in 2013; and Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum Arts Centre attracting 28,974 in 2014 compared with 24,193 in 2013. A total of 200,000 also visited the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway.

A total of 114,000 GB tourist trips were taken in the Outer Hebrides in 2014, compared with 113,000 in 2013 and GB tourist spend in 2014 totalled £43m - equalling the previous year.

Visitors to the Western Isles enjoyed a line-up of traditional music and boat festivals, Highland games, agricultural shows and sporting events, including Sail Stornoway Maritime Festival in July and Stornoway Golf Club Open Week.

The popular Hebridean Celtic Festival began life as a small, local event attracting around 1,000 people and has now grown to an international festival which attracts over 50 per cent of its audience from off-island - many coming from all parts of the world.

Alan Mackenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said: “What an incredible 2015 season it’s been here in the Outer Hebrides, with the festivals attracting visitors from around the world to our shores and, indeed, a visit by ‘The World’ cruise ship into Stornoway, which also saw Judge Judy make an appearance in the town centre!

“Lochboisdale’s new £10m harbour and pontoon development also opened and we would hope this will make a huge contribution to both the local economy and tourism going forward.

“Other highlights include the opening of the fantastic new Harris Distillery and the Outer Hebrides Tourism Annual Conference in Benbecula and Stornoway, where our very own Charlie Smith, Head of Marketing at VisitScotland, was amongst the speakers.

Alan added: “Tourism is more than a holiday experience – it creates jobs, sustains communities and provides a shop window for business activity. The visitor economy causes a ripple effect that touches every industry, business and community in the region.

“Without tourism, many remote communities would not be sustainable and business sectors like drink, retail or construction would be severely impacted.

“A strong visitor economy helps to position us on the world stage, with every tourism experience having the potential to become a business transaction.”

For further information about the Outer Hebrides, visit: here