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Mini Bite – Latest Survey Results, National Park Bids, HIE Event and more…

Skye is Scotland’s second most popular destination. The data shows that visitor numbers continue to grow each year and now exceed pre-covid levels. It is alarming that a destination like Skye faces the real possibility of not having a body tasked with managing the visitor economy.

SkyeConnect’s Latest Business Survey Results

SkyeConnect’s latest business survey has revealed support for a Government-funded destination management organisation and the development of a long-term sustainable tourism strategy for Skye and neighbouring areas. The survey comes in the wake of a decision to end the provision of core funding for Destination Management Organisations across the Highlands, including SkyeConnect.

The SkyeConnect survey received 120 responses from the business community. 67% of respondents agreed that visitor numbers need to be managed with 74% stating that the Scottish Government should provide core funding for a DMO on Skye.

The survey also asked about the impact of the Government’s planned visitor levy and other issues that need to be addressed in a long-term tourism strategy for Skye. Almost 90% of business support the development of a locally-led tourism strategy with a similar number expressing concern that Skye will not derive sufficient benefit from the imposition of a visitor levy if decisions are made centrally by the Highland Council in Inverness.

Key issues cited by respondents that a tourism strategy should address include better infrastructure to support growing visitor numbers, improved public transport and more powers to manage campervans.

SkyeConnect’s Executive Chair, Gary Curley, is encouraged by the support for destination management and a long-term tourism strategy.

Skye is Scotland’s second most popular destination. The data shows that visitor numbers continue to grow each year and now exceed pre-covid levels. It is alarming that a destination like Skye faces the real possibility of not having a body tasked with managing the visitor economy. Everything from footpath maintenance to visitor management to an integrated transport strategy requires the coordinating approach that SkyeConnect has delivered over the last six years.

SkyeConnect is a trusted voice within the industry, Government and the media and is a key organisation that conducts regular research in order to effectively represent the tourism sector and local community of Skye and surrounding areas. We have been encouraged by the support we have received from MSP, Kate Forbes, who has pledged to work with us as we seek to find alternative sources of funding to continue our core activities.

REQUEST, PLEASE ALERT: Quiraing Footpath Repairs & Restoration

 

Please can we ask accommodation providers to alert guests planning to visit the Quiraing that footpath repair and environmental restoration works will be carried on Meall na Suiramach, the hill above the main footpath from the 4th March ’24. The work will involve helicopter lifts of materials, certain sections of the loop path above the main route will be closed off at certain times during the project. The work is expected to take approximately 3 – 4 months.

Skye, Raasay, Rona and Other Areas Pull Out of National Park Bids

 

Several Highland regions, including Skye, Raasay and Rona, have opted out of seeking to become Scotland’s third national park following community consultations expressing various concerns. Wester Ross and the Affric and Loch Ness area also decided against nominations, with issues such as increased tourism, bureaucratic hurdles, and impacts on local housing and land management cited as major concerns. This decision reflects broader debates within communities about balancing environmental protection with economic and social priorities. The Scottish Government remains committed to establishing at least one new national park by 2026, with community backing as a crucial factor in these decisions.

In Skye, Raasay and Rona, community feedback led to a withdrawal from seeking national park designation, reflecting broader regional hesitations rooted in concerns over increased tourism and its impact on local life and land management. This decision underscores the complexities of balancing conservation efforts with community needs and economic development. The Scottish Government’s commitment to establishing new national parks by 2026 continues, highlighting the importance of local consensus and the nuanced debate over land use and environmental stewardship in regions like Skye, known for their natural beauty and cultural heritage.


New Gaelic Tourism Strategy for Scotland Launched

 

The Gaelic Tourism Strategy for Scotland 2024-2029 was officially launched as part of World Gaelic Week, aiming to enhance visitor experiences by promoting Gaelic culture, heritage, and language. The strategy was developed by Visit Scotland with input from various stakeholders including the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. The strategy sets out five strategic priorities:

  • to increase awareness of industry opportunities associated with Gaelic opportunities
  • to support the creation of Gaelic experiences through skills and training for the tourism industry
  • to increase visitor awareness of Gaelic and maximise opportunities
  • to promote the language, culture and heritage
  • to establish connections between tourism and other sectors, identifying opportunities for collaboration
    develop research and insights

Businesses are encouraged to innovate and collaborate to integrate Gaelic into their offerings, supported by resources like the Gaelic Tourism Industry Toolkit. For more detailed information, visit the official announcement on VisitScotland’s website​:

www.visitscotland.org/news/2024/gaelic-strategy-launch 

You can also download the full strategy document here:

www.visitscotland.org/about-us/what-we-do/working-in-partnership/gaelic-tourism-strategy

 

Visit Scotland’s Quality Assurance Scheme Coming to an End

 

VisitScotland is transitioning from its traditional Quality Assurance (QA) scheme to a digital-first approach for business advice, aiming to adapt to the evolving digital landscape and economic challenges. This shift focuses on providing dynamic support and insights to tourism businesses, helping them enhance visitor experiences in line with current consumer behaviours. The change includes retiring QA schemes by March 2025, with a commitment to support businesses through this transition and beyond, ensuring access to crucial advice on sustainability, digital trends, and consumer insights. This evolution reflects VisitScotland’s dedication to fostering a sustainable, high-quality tourism sector in Scotland​​. In terms of timeline, please note the following:

  • the scheme is now closed to new entrants
  • QA members will retain their current grading until 31 March 2025
  • there will be no fee for the 2024/25 scheme year
  • our schedule of visits for the 2023/24 scheme year will continue to be managed through face-to-face and digital for the next few months
  • the QA schemes will be retired on 31 March 2025

If you would like to talk to the Visit Scotland team about your QA membership, please email their customer services team: customer.services@visitscotland.com

For the full announcement and further details please visit: www.visitscotland.org/news/2024/quality-assurance

West Coast Vision: Lochaber Chamber & HIE Event 19th March

 

Hosted by Lochaber Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, this event promises to be a catalyst for shaping the future of the west coast with compelling keynote presentations, lively discussions, business case studies and more.

Speakers include:

  • Leading economist Professor Graeme Roy of the Adam Smith Business School at Glasgow University
  • West Coast business leader Alasdair Ferguson, MD of Ferguson Transport and Kishorn Port
  • Cultural advocate Maggie Cunningham, President of An Comunn Gàidhealach
  • Political expert Catherine MacLeod
  • former Political Editor and Special Adviser, Chair of HIE Alistair Dodds
  • CEO of Highland Council Derek Brown.

The meeting aims to provide a platform for meaningful dialogue, where your questions and ideas can shape the future of the west coast. Tickets are £65 + VAT per delegate and include hot morning rolls, a tasty lunch, and a late-afternoon networking reception with canapés and runs from 9.30am to 5.30pm.

Full agenda and tickets available here: 

West Coast Vision – Conference on Economic Resilience – EventBrite page

SkyeConnect Position Paper on National Park Status

 

SkyeConnect’s recently published position paper on Skye, Raasay and Rona’s National Park bid remains relevant despite the withdrawal of the recent bid. As an organisation, we will always advocate for informed community led decision-making. It is crucial that relevant organisations representing Skye and Skye’s tourism economy continue to engage in comprehensive dialogue and research to address future destination management and tourism strategies, independent of the National Park designation. 

The paper reflects on the rationale behind our neutrality on the national park issue and underlines the importance of providing platforms for community voices to be heard in shaping Skye’s environmental and economic future. Despite the recent withdrawal of the recent bid for Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh to become Scotland’s next National Park, SkyeConnect’s position remains the same.

 We acknowledge diverse community opinions and the need for informed discussions. SkyeConnect will continue to focus on facilitating neutral information exchange and promoting constructive dialogue on all issues that are relevant to local residents and the local business community. Our position reflects the complexity decisions such as National Park status, considering potential benefits and concerns, and highlights the importance of a transparent and democratic processes. 

For a detailed exploration of SkyeConnect’s stance and reasoning, please refer to the full position paper here: 

Position Paper – National Park Skye, Raasay and Rona

You can also see all of our other publicly published position papers here:

skye-connect.com/public-document-downloads/

www.visitscotland.org/research-insights/about-our-visitors/interests-activities/motorhomes-caravans-camping

 

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