Councillors have heaped praise on the work of new tourist body Promote Shetland during its first 18 months of existence and agreed to hand it the £27,000 that would usually be spent on the annual Flavour of Shetland shindig.
The organisation was set up amid growing frustration with what Josie Simpson described as “some severe battles” with VisitScotland over how the isles were being portrayed in the wider world. Members were chuffed with the start Promote Shetland has made and are hoping for bigger and better things in the years ahead.
Promote Shetland will have a budget of £465,000 for 2011/12, with the £27,000 going towards a “showcase” of products at this year’s Tall Ships Races, which is the reason why Flavour of Shetland is not taking place in 2011.
Councillor Gary Robinson failed 8-5 in an attempt to get the SIC to simply bank the cash instead. He had assumed it would have formed part of the SIC’s £1.2 million contribution to the Tall Ships. “We are in a time where we’re trying to keep our expenditure down,” he reminded colleagues.
Head of economic development Neil Grant admitted the showcase would still go ahead regardless, but said the extra money was needed for “doing other things in Shetland”, including promotional activity.
Councillor Caroline Miller agreed, saying Promote Shetland was working very well and, because tourism formed such an important part of the isles’ economy, it was “imperative it has all the backing we can possibly afford”. She said: “They’re doing a fantastic job.”
It is notoriously difficult to measure the effects of tourist organisations – VisitScotland has come under flak after business economists noted last week that the number of visitors to this country fell by one million between 2006 and 2009. But Betty Fullerton said there had unquestionably been “huge interest” in the isles in recent months, in particular generated by Simon King’s BBC diaries.
Members were pleased by the work of the small team, directly employed by Shetland Amenity Trust. Manager Andy Steven is supported by marketing executives Misa Hay and Deborah Leggate.
A report from SIC marketing official Neil Henderson hailed the establishment of Promote Shetland and its achievements to date as “exceptional” and said it had made an “exciting start”.
He highlighted a monthly newsletter being emailed to almost 1,500 people, the provision of high quality web cams to provide ex-pats and aspiring visitors with “authentic sights and sounds”. No fewer than 2,752 people streamed live internet footage of this year’s Up-Helly-A’ procession.
A recently-screened BBC documentary on Shetland Folk Festival and a 17-track promotional compilation of Shetland music given away with the revered Songlines magazine were both supported by Promote Shetland in the past year.