A pioneering event, brought together a collective of community members, local organisations and businesses, to address some of the waste issues on the Isle of Skye. With an influx of approximately 600,000+ annual visitors, it faces unprecedented waste management challenges.Read More
SkyeConnect End of year Review and Outlook for 2024
As we reflect on 2023, SkyeConnect's journey has been marked by sustained efforts towards sustainable tourism, community engagement, advocacy and digital innovation. Our aim for 2024 is to continue elevating tourism on government agendas, ensuring Skye's challenges are communicated clearly.
REFLECTIONS ON 2023 AND SKYECONNECT’S WORK
As we reflect on 2023, SkyeConnect’s journey has been marked by sustained efforts towards sustainable tourism, community engagement, advocacy and digital innovation. We hosted impactful events like Sustainable Skye, focusing on environmental stewardship and waste management. Our engagement in environmental restoration at key locations like the Old Man of Storr and Fairy Pools further highlights our commitment to conserving Skye’s natural beauty.
Throughout the year, SkyeConnect actively advocated for the tourism sector, particularly in discussions regarding the Visitor Levy Bill and Short Term Lets Licensing. We gathered and submitted important research and feedback from local businesses, ensuring that our community’s voice was heard and governmental policy and decision-making was influenced wherever possible. We also emphasised the importance of community involvement, encouraging more local representatives to join our board and shape our direction.
Infrastructure improvements were a priority, with initiatives to upgrade footpaths, enhance environmental protection, and ensure transportation accessibility. Our digital endeavours, particularly the development of the MySkyeTime app designed to ease congestion at tourist hotspots, will play a crucial role in enhancing future visitor management and experience.
We provided guidance and resources to local operators for short-term let licensing and through our ongoing collaborations with organisations like HIE, we continued to bolster business support, offering resources to reduce carbon footprints and support economic growth. We hosted seminars and webinars on various pertinent issues, showing our commitment to the holistic wellbeing of Skye’s residents and visitors.
As we look towards 2024, SkyeConnect is poised to continue these efforts. Our focus will remain on sustainable tourism, community collaboration, advocacy and digital transformation to enhance Skye’s position as a leading tourist destination whilst also ensuring it remains a great place to live and work. We look forward to working with our industry partners, local and national government organisations, the local community and our members to ensure that Skye’s tourism industry is well represented in all the conversations and decisions that matter.
TOURISM’S FUTURE AND CURRENT CHALLENGES
2023 posed significant challenges for Scottish tourism, highlighting the urgent need for continued cohesive efforts to achieve Scotland’s ambition of becoming a 21st-century tourism leader. Despite industry resilience and innovation, obstacles like economic pressures, sustainability issues, and the cost-of-living crisis persist, affecting the sector’s growth and recovery.
Research by the STA and SkyeConnect paints a picture of a sector that, while seemingly thriving in terms of tourist numbers, faces many challenges from declining profits and declining domestic tourism to continued staffing challenges and rising costs. The Scottish Government’s recent budget was disappointing, notably the lack of extended business rates relief, which England is currently benefitting from, further complicating the sector’s recovery. However, it is important to highlight that island-based businesses like those on Skye will receive some respite. The Scottish Government will “offer 100 per cent relief in 2024-25 for hospitality businesses located on islands as defined by the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 and capped at £110,000 per business.”
With diminishing support measures and cuts to VisitScotland’s budget, marketing Scotland internationally will be impacted. Additionally, potential reductions in core funding for Destination Management Organisations threaten local representation and essential tourism services, despite growing visitor numbers.
SkyeConnect remains dedicated to supporting the industry, advocating for government prioritisation of tourism. Our aim for 2024 is to continue elevating tourism on government agendas, ensuring Skye’s challenges are communicated clearly with evidence and that its sustainability challenges as a community and tourist destination are recognised and addressed.
TRENDS AND OUTLOOK FOR 2024
As we step into 2024, the global travel sector is evolving with new trends and consumer behaviours. According to Euromonitor International, global tourism spending is forecast to hit a record $2 trillion, driven largely by leisure demand, despite the complexities of a weakened global economy and sustainability challenges.
A notable trend is the rise of experience seekers, with travel and tourism outperforming the global economy. However, growth is expected to be moderate, with inflation and travel disruptions influencing consumer choices. Blended travel, combining work and leisure, is gaining momentum and is anticipated to reach $300 billion in 2024.
Rail transport, seen as a more climate-friendly option, is the fastest-growing travel category, highlighting the increased climate consciousness among travellers. Luxury travel is also on the rise, with duty-free shopping and cultural sites expected to see significant growth, signalling a shift in travel preferences.
Personalisation is key, with niche tourism segments like wellness, eco-tourism, and adventure sports poised for major growth. This reflects a shift towards personalised experiences that align with individual lifestyles and values. Digital innovation, including AI in travel planning, is enhancing the way travellers find and experience their perfect trip.
The post-pandemic traveller demographic is skewing younger, with millennials increasingly making up the largest share of various traveller segments. Travel has become highly digitalised, with a significant majority of bookings expected to be made online.
In response to these trends, SkyeConnect is strategically positioning itself to leverage these shifts. Our focus will be on promoting sustainable travel options, embracing digital transformation, and supporting local businesses with the latest insights and information to enable members to take advantage of emerging trends and cater to the evolving needs of our diverse visitor base. As we navigate a dynamic tourism market, we remain committed to fostering a sustainable and vibrant tourism and hospitality industry on Skye.
NATIONAL PARK PUBLIC MEETINGS ANNOUNCED AND USEFUL INFORMATION
With plans underway for Skye, Raasay, and Rona to potentially become Scotland’s next National Park, a series of public meetings have been announced to discuss the prospect. Spearheaded by Skye and Raasay Councillor Drew Millar, these meetings aim to inform and engage the community in the bid process. SkyeConnect will also be preparing a survey to gather the views of local businesses in early 2024.
Scheduled gatherings will run from 12.30pm to 7pm at the following locations:
- An Crùbh in Sleat on Wednesday 10th January
- Dunvegan Hall on Thursday 11th January
- Isle of Skye Candle Company Visitor Centre on Friday 12th February
- The date for a Raasay meeting is still being finalised.
With bids for new national parks to be submitted by February 2024 and one National Park to be designated by 2026, these meetings provide an opportunity for the local community and businesses to engage with the process and ensure that their views and opinions are heard. With this in mind, we thought it would be helpful to provide some useful information and links:
- NatureScot Recent Video Presentations on National Parks: www.nature.scot/doc/new-national-park-online-technical-workshop-recordings-presentations
- NatureScot info on New National Parks: www.nature.scot/professional-advice/protected-areas-and-species/protected-areas/national-designations/national-parks
- A National Park for Skye, Raasay and Rona? – eileanacheoblog.wordpress.com
- New National Parks: nominations guidance and appraisal framework – www.gov.scot/publications/new-national-parks-nominations-guidance-appraisal-framework/
LSHA SHARED EQUITY HOUSING AVAILABLE IN BROADFORD
Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association have 2 new shared equity properties available in Broadford, both 3 bed houses valued at £225k. Shared Equity involves a 20%-50% interest free public subsidy so owners can buy a house but only pay for a fraction according to their means. Compass has a discounted house purchase scheme at the same site in Broadford with 3 flats and 1 house still available.
Please visit this link for information: www.lsha.co.uk/images/PDFs/Adverts/SharedEquitySalesV2.pdf
SKYE BRIDGE TRAFFIC SURGES 11% FROM 2022 TO 2023 DURING PEAK MONTHS
According to new data on vehicle crossings over the Skye Bridge, traffic has increased by 11.4% from 2022 to 2023 during peak tourism months April to August, a significant increase of 101,565 crossings. This substantial growth reflects Skye’s growing popularity as a tourist destination. Traffic patterns reveal a strong seasonal trend, with the summer months of July, August, and September seeing the highest vehicle volumes. For example, in August 2023, there were almost 229,000 crossings, making it the busiest month.
The data shows that eastbound and westbound volumes are fairly equal, suggesting the bridge is used similarly in both directions by residents and visitors. While additional data would be required to definitively calculate visitor traffic, over 65% of bridge crossings were tied to peak tourism months between April and September in 2023.
With traffic seemingly continuing to rise, infrastructure and services need to prepare for possible further increases. The busiest days on Skye could see over 10,000 crossings, so capacity planning and destination management measures are imperative.
The Skye Bridge traffic figures quantify the remarkable growth in visitors to the Isle of Skye. This data not only reflects Skye’s popularity as a tourist destination but also emphasises the importance of continued efforts in managing tourism effectively and highlights the need for effective destination management that prioritises sustainable tourism. As we continue to welcome more visitors each year, it’s crucial to balance this growth with the preservation of Skye’s natural beauty and community well-being.