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Getting the VIP treatment in the Outer Hebrides

Press Release   •   Nov 15, 2017 11:38 GMT

The interior of Bernera Museum

A community museum in the Outer Hebrides which has seen a 50% increase in visitors this year compared to last, has joined VisitScotland’s Information Partner (VIP) programme.

Bernera Museum, which is run by a group of around 14 dedicated, knowledgeable and passionate local volunteers within Bernera Community Centre – recently retained its 4 Star Museum VisitScotland Quality Assurance grading and also joined the national tourism organisation’s Ancestral Welcome Scheme.

This scheme was created by VisitScotland, in partnership with the Scottish Ancestral Tourism Group, for visitors with an interest in ancestral research. Bernera Museum’s genealogical and photo collection of local locations and residents is a major part of its offering.

The museum, which is managed and run by the Bernera Museum Trust on behalf of the Bernera Historical Society, has joined an exclusive network of similar VIPs by committing to actively promote Bernera, the Outer Hebrides and services offered by local businesses to visitors. The museum displays an information board with things to see and do in the local area and beyond as well as a very popular and regular weather update for visitors.

Launched in May 2016, the VIP programme ties in with VisitScotland’s global Spirit of Scotland campaign and harnesses the local knowledge, warmth and enthusiasm of partners across the country to help visitors receive the warmest of welcomes and make the most of their trip to Scotland.

Visitor attractions, accommodation providers and social enterprises have all joined the scheme to help ensure visitors receive first-class information about the local region and Scotland as a whole.

The museum, which has attracted just over 1,000 visitors this year, displays items of historical interest to Great Bernera and a large collection of genealogical reference material. Artifacts from the Bosta Iron Age Village dig are on display and Bernera Historical Society also operates an experimental reconstruction of an Iron Age House close to the original dig at Bosta Beach, which has attracted around 5,000 visitors to date this year – up about 20% on last year.

Bernera has many historical sites, including a Norse Mill, island Broch, Shielings and croft ruins as well as a cairn to the Bernera Rioters. Details of these are available at the museum.

Alan MacKenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager said: “I am very impressed with the way in which staff at Bernera Museum have embraced the VisitScotland Information Partner (VIP) scheme. They are very passionate about this area and the whole museum does a great job of promoting not only the history of the area, but also other local businesses.

“The VIP programme is open to Quality Assured businesses across the industry as well as community groups and transport providers. Participants benefit from branding and collateral, promotional material and information resources to ensure visitors receive first-class information about Scotland and the local area.

Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of Scottish tourism and we want to market Scotland with Scotland. Our approach to information provision allows us to multiply the information touchpoints we offer our visitors, delivering information in the right place and at the right time.

“Our model for information provision is moving from ‘bricks and mortar’ to ‘bricks and clicks’, providing high quality information to visitors where they want it, when they want it.

“This involves delivery of the best information to every corner of Scotland through a ‘band’ of tourism ambassadors, enhanced digital activity, and an information network which delivers exceptional service.

“The Scotland Visitor Survey (2015/16) showed that 46% of visitors prefer to get information on what to see and do in an area from the locals with 33% of visitors preferring to get it from their accommodation provider directly. We want every person in every community to be an advocate and ambassador for Scotland – informing and inspiring visitors with local highlights, hidden gems and must-see attractions in every region of the country.”

Colin Halliday, Bernera Museum trustee and Secretary to the Trust, said: We are always looking for ways to improve our visitor experience and also to attract more visitors and last year took up the offer of a free entry on the VisitScotland website. Joining the VIP scheme was a natural progression of that.

“I feel that being on the VisitScotland website will have had an influence on our visitor figures but cannot say by how much. The various TV programmes over the winter focusing on the Outer Hebrides may have also helped and many people tell us they’ve come to the Iron Age House because they have seen it on TV.

“We find that a lot of visitors ask about other locations to visit on Lewis and Harris and we are pleased to assist them. By joining the VIP scheme we are willing and able to help visitors on a wider scope than just our museum. Cost is also important to us as we are a small charitable museum with little income other than the small amount that we charge for entry.

“The ‘information to display’ guide and templates using the VisitScotland brand help improve the professionalism we can display to our visitors and helps add to the experience along with the improvements that we have been making over the past couple of years.

“We are run and manned purely by volunteers and being part of this scheme recognises the contribution that they all make towards our visitors and shows the volunteers that they all make a difference.

“We have set up the information board just outside the museum door, in an area used by other visitors to the community centre as well, and I have seen people reading the information, so we are getting to more visitors than just those who come into the museum.”

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