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Survey results show rise in visitors to Shetland

11 February 2014

The Islands Visitor Survey results are released today and show the number of visitors to Shetland have risen along with levels of visitor satisfaction.

The Islands Visitor Survey shows that just under 65,000* people visited Shetland spending over £16.2 million in the local economy over the period of a year. The average length of time visitors are spending has risen to 10 nights.

The survey took place between October 2012 and September 2013 and interviewed 1,259 visitors as they departed from Sumburgh airport or Holmsgarth ferry terminal.  The questions asked covered a broad range of topics, including what influenced them to visit, how they planned and booked their trip, where they stayed, what attractions they visited and what activities they participated in during their time in Shetland.

Overall satisfaction levels with their visit to Shetland were very high, with over 90% of leisure visitors being “very satisfied”.  The main influence on visitors deciding to come to Shetland was an interest in the fantastic scenery and landscape, with the wealth of archaeology also quoted as an important factor.  The most likely activities for visitors were walks, visiting Shetlands fabulous beaches, shopping for local crafts and bird-watching, amongst others.

In terms of accommodation, 90% of visitors said the type and quality of accommodation they wanted was available when they booked, and 43% of Shetland visitors shared their experiences on-line, the main activity being uploading photos and updating their status on Facebook.

Malcolm Bell, Shetland Islands Council Convener, said:

“I’m extremely pleased to see that Shetland continues to provide a high level of satisfaction to visitors, and that more and more people are heading to the isles to enjoy its outstanding natural beauty.  Tourism contributes significantly to the local economy, and I’m also heartened to see the increase in the number of business visitors which reflects current developments in the oil and gas sector.  I welcome this important piece of research, which will be valuable to us as a local authority.”

Audrey MacLennan, Senior Tourism Manager at HIE, said:

“The survey findings provide us with information which will help us measure the economic impact of visitors to the islands. It also gives us some great insights into the visitor experience across all three island groups which, in turn, will help the tourism business community and others to spot opportunities and identify what they need to do to ensure the service and experience they offer is up to date with visitor expectations, which could ultimately lead to an increase in visitor numbers.”

Steve Mathieson, VisitScotlands Island Manager, said:

“The results of the Islands Visitor Survey show that tourism is a very important factor in the make- up of the Shetland economy.  I am delighted to see the growth in visitor numbers and the length of their stay on the islands. 

Shetland is a place that people visit primarily for the unspoilt beauty of its landscape, its beaches and coastal scenery, its wildlife and incredible archaeology, and this is very much reflected in the survey results.”

The Islands Visitor Survey was carried out across Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides in partnership with Shetlands Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland.  The research was carried out by Scotinform Ltd and Reference Economics who conducted interviews in each of the island destinations.  The research work was also supported by local industry groups and the main transport operators to the islands.

*The 2006 Shetland Visitor Survey reported 60,000 visitors

The Executive Summary and factsheets of the results from each Island region can be found at:

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