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Press Release   •   May 17, 2018 16:56 BST

The Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis

It’s the alluring mix of stunning scenery and fascinating history and culture of Scotland’s islands that has seen visits rise by up to 22% - bringing in an extra £36.9 million to the local economies, the latest Islands Visitor Survey reveals.

The Islands Visitor Survey 2017 found that there were 466,125 total visits to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland with a value of £137.7 million to the local economies.

The survey reveals that a third of leisure visitors to the islands come from outside the UK whilst nine in ten say they would highly likely recommend the islands to others with at least 60% saying they would likely make a return visit within the next five years.

The local authorities of Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, in partnership with national tourism body, VisitScotland, commissioned the visitor survey to provide robust and up-to-date estimates of value and volume, as well as information on experiences, motivations, behaviours and perceptions.

The research was carried out by insight firm, Progressive, between January and December last year and was gathered using a two-stage approach: more than 14,000 calibration interviews were conducted face-to-face with visitors at key exit points from the islands – ferry terminals and the airport and a follow-up online survey was issued to gather more detailed feedback.

The survey found an increase in the use of online resources in trip planning, such as using the VisitScotland or local websites, and whilst visiting – with more than half of all leisure visitors actively shared their experience online during or after their visit (e.g. uploading photos or updating their Facebook status).

The scenery and landscape of the islands was the predominant factor for influencing leisure visitors to travel, with the history and culture another major factor, while some were inspired by TV programmes, travel features in the press and books.

Interactions with local people were a particular highlight for many visitors with almost all agreeing that they were made to feel welcome and nine in 10 agreeing that local people really added to the experience.

Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “From dramatic and beautiful landscapes and coastlines, to rich cultural heritage and vibrant and welcoming communities, Scotland’s islands have so much to offer to visitors. And with one in three tourists coming from overseas, clearly the international reputation of our islands is on the rise.

“It is fantastic news that 2017 saw a significant increase in visitors choosing to come to the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, which has boosted local economies by more than £137 million. This is why the Scottish Government is working in partnership, at a local and national level, to support sustainable growth in rural tourism.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “The findings of the Islands Visitor Survey 2017 clearly demonstrate the vitally-important role that tourism plays within the local economy of the islands and I’m delighted that visits and spend continue to grow in these wonderful parts of Scotland.

“The Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, unique historical sites and amazing culture, and it’s wonderful to see the warmth and friendliness of the people shines through the survey.

“Tourism is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy, causing a ripple effect which touches every industry and community, creating employment and economic growth. VisitScotland will work closely with industry and public sector partners in using the findings of the survey to develop and enhance the visitor experience.”

The Executive Summary and full reports of the results of each Island region can be found at:

*Due to a change in methodology (and some wording of questions) between 2017 and 2013, caution is required when comparing data from 2017 to earlier islands surveys. Full details of the differences between 2017 and 2013 are outlined in the full report.

**This survey does not include the approx 163,000 visitors who arrived on cruise ships in Orkney and Shetland in 2017.

Notes to Editors

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  • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
  • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
  • This will be supported by five overarching strategies: Marketing, Events, Quality and Sustainability, Inclusive Tourism, International Engagement.
  • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
  • Spending by tourists in Scotland generates around £12 billion of economic activity in the wider Scottish supply chain and contributes around £6 billion to Scottish GDP (in basic prices). This represents about 5% of total Scottish GDP
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2018 Year of Young People

  • The Year of Young People 2018 will be the next of the Scottish Government’s series of themed years, following the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.
  • The Year of Young People (YoYP 2018) will inspire Scotland through its young people aged 8 to 26, celebrating their achievements, valuing their contributions to communities and creating new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally
  • Central to YoYP 2018 will be a celebratory events programme that puts young people at the heart of its development and delivery, creating new and valuable experiences for young Scots and the wider public, with links to the inaugural 2018 European Championships.
  • Over 200 young people throughout Scotland are currently being recruited to become YoYP 2018 Ambassadors. Ambassadors will ensure that people and organisations in their communities know about what’s happening and will lead on projects and activities to create events and opportunities to celebrate young people.
  • The Year of Young People will have six themes which were developed in co-production with young people themselves:
  • oParticipation – looking at how young people can influence public services and decisions which affect their lives
  • oEducation – creating a stronger role for young people in shaping their learning
  • oHealth and Wellbeing – supporting young people to lead healthier, active lives and have opportunities to learn about and improve their mental health and resilience
  • oEquality and Discrimination – broadcasting the value of young Scots, challenging negative perceptions of young people, and supporting young people to take leading roles in challenging discrimination in all its forms.
  • oEnterprise and regeneration – celebrating young people’s role in innovation, entrepreneurship and the Scottish economy as well as making Scotland a greener and more pleasant place to live
  • oCulture – celebrating young people’s talent and contribution to Scottish culture and arts.
  • Further information on what’s happening and how people can get involved can be found on the new website or @YOYP2018 on Twitter.