Shetland’s status as one 100 geoparks has been renewed – in the same week that figures were published suggesting the geopark brings in a six-figure sum in tourism revenue every year.
It follows a visit from European Geoparks Network representatives from Germany and Norway. Timo Kluttig and Ingeborg Klepp experienced Shetland’s geopark at first hand in August, and their “revalidation” report stated that the isles had undertaken a “process of enormous development” in the past four years.
Shetland’s continued presence within the international network was unanimously approved at a meeting in Italy earlier this month.
Geopark Shetland worker Robina Barton said she was “thrilled” that the “hard-won membership” of the European and global networks had been retained.
“We will be doing our best to capitalise on this membership in the coming years with support from the Scottish government, so that we can really benefit the people of Shetland – particularly through tourism and lifelong learning.
“The report from the Unesco National Commission makes clear that geoparks are making a difference both in terms of community opportunities and direct financial benefit and that is only going to increase as the global network expands and develops.”
Figures in a report from the UK national commission to Unesco estimates that the global network of geoparks is worth nearly £19 million a year to the UK.
The report states: “Geopark Shetland has secured over £200,000 in funding since joining the European Geopark Network in 2009, 30 per cent of which came from EU Leader funding.
“The geopark has seen year-on-year increases in awareness of geopark status: in 2012, 76 per cent of those surveyed knew that Shetland was a geopark and 11 per cent of respondents from outside Shetland said the geopark was part of their reason for visiting the islands.
“Assuming average visitor spend of £20, this indicates that geopark status brings an additional £110,000 per year in tourism revenue to Shetland from 11 per cent of the 50,000 visitors to the geopark.
Full story in Friday’s Shetland Times.