Visitors to Shetland are spending less than they were eight years ago, an extensive survey of tourism and business travelers has suggested.
The value of visitors to Shetland for 2012-2013 was £16 million, representing a decrease of over £2 million compared to the inflation adjusted figure for 2006. Visitors to the Western Isles, by contrast, spent almost £54 million whilst those to Orkney spent over £31 million.
Visitor numbers were up from 60,000 in 2005 to 65,000 in the year from October 2012 to September 2013 with holiday and business visitors both accounting for 41 per cent of the total while folk visiting friends and relatives accounted for the remaining 18 per cent.
The figures were revealed in a survey undertaken by Scotinform Limited and Reference Economics on behalf of a number of organisations. Similar surveys were carried out in Orkney and the Western Isles. The cost of getting to Shetland appeared to put people off planning a return visit however.
Visit Shetland manager Steve Mathieson said that overall he was “very pleased” with the survey, which showed Shetland was “on the right track” for delivering a tourist experience.
“What this survey does show is what a fantastic place we have here and the friendliness of the people,” Mr Mathieson added. “This shows we are on the right direction and we have to keep going.”
Mr Mathieson attributed the drop in spending to the tough economic times which meant that people had less spare cash.
Business visits showed the biggest growth with 4,400 more business visitors than in 2006 compared with 2,000 more tourists, while family visitor numbers dropped by 1,600.
However business visitors accounted for 46 per cent of total spend, with £279 spent per head, and tourists accounted for 42 per cent, at £258 per head while family visitors spent only £169. Only six per cent of spend was on local food and produce.
Some 60 per cent of business and family visitors flew to Shetland but the majority of tourists took the ferry. Male visitors outnumbered females at 60 per cent and over half of all visitors were travelling alone – reflecting the large number of business visitors.
The survey results were based on 1,259 face-to-face visitor interviews with 368 online responses. Shetland scored particularly highly on the quality of accommodation and the friendliness and efficiency of service. There was also good marks for the quality of visitor attractions with Shetland museum and Archives the biggest draw with 57 per cent of visitors paying a visit, ahead of Sumburgh Head which 34 per cent visited.
The most frequent activities undertaken by visitors were short walks, followed by coastal scenery and shopping for local crafts and produce. Holiday makers were more likely to undertake activities.
Just under half of visitors were from other parts of Scotland and they spent £6 million in Shetland while one-third were from other parts of the UK and spent £5 million. People from other EU countries and abroad made up the rest but spent a large proportion at £4 million.
Whilst 79 per cent of visitors were “very satisfied” with their overall experience, this was lower than Orkney and the Western Isles, both rated at 87 per cent. The numbers “very likely to return” told a similar story, with 61 per cent of visitors to the Western Isles and 51 per cent of visitors to Orkney ticking that box instead of only 50 per cent of Shetland visitors.
Mr Mathieson attributed this to the cost and time of travel to Shetland and the fact that far more visitors to Orkney and the Outer Hebrides were likely to be day trippers, while people were inclined to plan their trips to Shetland further in advance than to the other island groups.