20th September 2018
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Chiefs predict 2011 could be best tourist year ever

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This year’s tourist season has got off to a good start and could be the best ever, according to tourism chiefs.

Visit Shetland boss Steve Mathie­son said the season promises to be very good, especially with the emphasis on holidays in this country (helped in part by last year’s ash cloud).

Mr Mathieson said of the developing season: “It’s looking pretty buoyant. One of the things Visit Scotland [of which Visit Shetland is part] has been pushing is staycations. We did a direct mail initiative with Promote Shetland to 30,000 people who made inquiries. Shetland has a wealth of things to see and do for both tourists and locals.”

He cited July’s Nature Festival and Geopark Week as some of the season’s highlights, with the Tall Ships visit the “focal point” of the whole tourism year. The temporary accommodation scheme offering beds to people coming to see the Tall Ships is still ongoing, he said – anyone wanting to get involved should register at the tourist office. There is no fee and no checks will be made.

Mr Mathieson also said tour operators, such as those offering boat trips, had reported “healthy” bookings, feedback from hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommo­dation providers had been “positive” and there were new special interest activities to interest the visitor.

Sea angling in Shetland has been shown on Sky TV, and this year, for the first time, Shetland’s gardens are listed in the prestigious Yellow Book of gardens open to the public for charity.

Gardens from the South Mainland to URGE in Unst are featured and with a record number of cruise ships and the prospect of Mareel later in the year the season appears bright.

Promote Shetland chief Andy Stephen echoed Mr Mathieson’s assessment: “Shetland in general is very busy at the moment. There is definitely an increase in leisure visitors this year, it’s a good situation to be in.”

Shetland Tourism Association chairman Joe Rocks, of Busta House Hotel, said: “My impressions from a business perspective is that it looks like being a good season.”

In the summer season bookings at the hotel change from being mainly business to being leisure orientated, with June typically being the busiest month. He said: “On a number of nights in June [this year] we are fully booked, as usual.”

Mr Rocks has recently been to a STA meeting where the feeling was that a “better than average” year is coming up. He said: “Last year tour­ism operators felt it had been their best year, with the season starting a couple of weeks earlier. This year is a continuation of that shift with the shoulder seasons improving. It’s looking good.”

NorthLink is also set to experi­ence a bumper year, likely to be their busiest ever, according to commer­cial director Cynthia Spencer.

She said: “Since winning the Northern Isles ferry contract nine years ago we’ve been very keen to promote the islands as desirable holiday locations. Through market­ing and advertising we’ve been heavily promoting our Group Tours packages. Every year we attend the main UK travel trade conferences and year-on-year we have seen significant increases in both group tours and self-generated visits to Shetland by individuals going it alone.

“This year is shaping up to be our busiest ever. Last year we catered for almost 200 tour groups compris­ing nearly 5,500 visitors to Shetland and Orkney. This year, for Shetland alone, we’re witnessing a 27 per cent increase in group tour bookings.

“Shetland provides magical holi­day experiences sufficiently differ­ent from anything else in the UK to make it a real stand-out destination. The holiday experience begins the moment visitors set foot on one of our ferries. Staycationers from the UK are able to participate in holiday experiences which are ‘a world away’ but right on their doorstep too.”

Loganair commercial director Jonathan Hinkles said: “Clearly, the Tall Ships Race is going to make a tremendous difference to the number of visitors to Shetland this year, with almost double the number of passengers already booked to travel in July versus last year.”

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About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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One comment

  1. Ron Stronach

    I really hope it is a bumper year for tourists and I hope there will be a large amount of repeat trade afterwards. But I cant help wondering if the shops will be closed on Wednesday afternoon as usual?

    I say that tongue in cheek as I’m not sure if the shops for tourists actually do close on Wednesdays, but it would be typical if I found that they did inded close early!
    Tourists vist in order to see things and do things while they are there. I know the Shetland summer weather can be anything from a hail storm to really sunny and warm, but what is there to do on a rainy wednesday afternoon if you have just stepped off the boat?
    Other than going to the Tourist office, how else would I find out what to do?
    I dont remember seeing anything advertised on the piers, I dont remember seeing tourist brochures in the shops?

    I know up Helly Aa is in Janury and the weahter can be bad, but I was in the tourist office looking around when a couple of tourists came in and enquired what they could go and see, they were directed to Fort Charlotte with a stern reminder that there was nothing to do when they got there, but it had a nice view of the harbour!
    Loads of tourists go up for Up Helly Aa, so please during peak periods, please try and sell the auld rock a little bit more. Make people aware what our lovely Islands have on offer. I visited Unst for the first time during the Hamefarin in June, what a lovely place. Lets Sell Sell Sell.

    Reply

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