Survey results show rise in visitors to the Outer Hebrides

The main influence on visitors when booking a trip to the Islands was cited as the scenery and landscape. Pictured is Valtos Beach.
The main influence on visitors when booking a trip to the Islands was cited as the scenery and landscape. Pictured is Valtos Beach.

The Islands Visitor Survey results have been released and show the number of visitors to the Outer Hebrides has risen along with high levels of visitor satisfaction.

The Islands Visitor Survey shows that just over 218,000 people visited the Outer Hebrides spending over £53.5 million over the period of one year, while 48% of leisure visitors interviewed were returning to the islands having previously enjoyed holidays in the Outer Hebrides.

The Islands Visitor Survey took place between October 2012 and September 2013 and interviewed overnight and day visitors to the Outer Hebrides asking a wide range of questions including what influenced them to visit; how they planned and booked their trip; where they stayed; what attractions they visited and activities they participated in during their time in the Outer Hebrides.

Satisfaction levels amongst visitors surveyed were very high with 87% being ‘very satisfied’ and a further 11% being ‘fairly satisfied’. The main influence on visitors when booking a trip to the Islands was cited as the scenery and landscape. Of those surveyed 74% spent time enjoying the fabulous beaches and coastal scenery and 64% enjoyed short walks.

One noticeable area of change from the last survey is that 41% of visitors to the Outer Hebrides share their experiences online during and after their trip with almost a third uploading photos of their visit on social media sites.

Cllr. Alasdair Macleod, Chair of CNES Sustainable Development Committee, said: “The results of the survey are invaluable as they provide us with an insight into the visitor experience within the Outer Hebrides. It is very reassuring to see that satisfaction levels are so high and that the vast majority of visitors would recommend the Outer Hebrides as a holiday destination to their friends and relatives.

“The Comhairle will continue to work with the local industry and VisitScotland to ensure that the numbers of visitors to our islands continue to rise.”

Anne Macaulay, of Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the Outer Hebrides, said: “HIE is delighted to be supporting the Island Visitor Survey. The results, which show the rise in the volume of visitors to the Outer Hebrides, are very encouraging.

“These findings now provide us with greater insight into the visitor experience throughout the Outer Hebrides, helping our tourism industry to spot opportunities to increase visitor numbers in the future.”

Tourism is an important sector for HIE and one that can make a significant contribution to a competitive region. Additionally, the research findings have informed the Outer Hebrides Tourism Strategy which is due to be launched in April, allowing all stakeholders to maximise the full potential of the islands’ outstanding tourism assets.”

Alan Mackenzie, VisitScotland’s Island Manager, said: “Tourism is a key driver to the economy of the Outer Hebrides and these results illustrate how resilient and sustainable the industry is in the long term. We are delighted to see growth in both visitor numbers and satisfaction particularly during the challenging economic climate.

“It is very rewarding to see so many repeat visitors to the Outer Hebrides who obviously enjoyed previous trips so much they are coming again and sharing their experiences online via Facebook etc. We can also see from the survey results an increase in the proportion of our visitors originating from Scotland which reflects the focus of VisitScotland’s recent domestic marketing campaigns.”

The Islands Visitor Survey was carried out across the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland in partnership with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland.

The research was carried out by Scotinform Ltd and Reference Economics who conducted interviews in each of the island destinations. The research work was also supported by local industry groups and the main transport operators to the islands.