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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 02/05/2022

Spring has sprung, the weather is improving, and the Outer Hebrides are preparing for the start of the tourism season, our Development Manager, Victoria Harvey, discusses what there is to look forward to across the region and how to best to enjoy it. 

Victoria Harvey, Development Manager for the Outer Hebrides
Victoria Harvey, Development Manager for the Outer Hebrides
Image credit VisitScotland

April is widely regarded as the beginning of the traditional holiday season, a time when tourism businesses right across the country are poised to welcome visitors from across the globe.

We'll be kicking off this season with our first tourism industry event in a few years centred on a screening of the Road Dance, the movie adaption of STV news anchor John Mackay’s novel, which was filmed entirely in the Outer Hebrides. This event will provide the spotlight for us to celebrate all that screen tourism brings to the islands.

Visiting places seen in film and TV is a big draw, especially for international visitors. We recently hosted several events at Scotland Week in New York and had Donnie Steele from Uist Gifts speak with tour operators and key tourism players from across the pond about South Uist’s community initiative highlighting the story of Flora Macdonald.

This is the Year of Stories, is this themed year will sustain and build upon the momentum of the preceding Themed Years to spotlight, celebrate and promote the wealth of stories inspired by, written or created in Scotland. And as the Outer Hebrides are bursting with incredible stories, there will plenty of opportunities to showcase the islands. The Year will fund hundreds of events including An Lanntair’s Seachas series of activities which take place this week with four storytelling residencies with local stories from Lewis and Harris being gathered and shared throughout rural communities.

Taigh Chearsabhagh on North Uist will feature as one of the 12 “Unexpected Gardens” springing up at community libraries, waterfronts and car parks from April to September, bringing together food, science and musical performances. Commissioned by EventScotland and funded via the Scottish Government, they're part of Dandelion, Scotland’s contribution to UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, a series of nationwide creative events and engagement.

Plus, there is a return of HebCelt and the very first Outer Hebrides Wildlife Festival this June to look forward to.

Victoria Harvey, Development Manager for the Outer Hebrides, VisitScotland
A Family On Hosta Beach Or Traigh Stir, North Uist
A Family On Hosta Beach Or Traigh Stir, North Uist
Image credit VisitScotland/Paul Tomkins, all rights reserved

Hearing from businesses, it sounds like this will be a bumper year for the islands’ businesses though staffing issues continue to be a rising concern for many.

With this in mind, VisitScotland recently released a series of videos highlighting the range and variety of jobs across the sector. This followed a recent survey showing that Scots believe tourism supports a range of jobs and will aid the recovery of communities across the country.

It’s been a difficult few years, and while the current economic situation will bring some fresh challenges for all, there is a general desire from both visitors and businesses to return to some kind of normality.

While the return of international visitors will be important for the long-term recovery of the industry, people in Scotland still have a key role to play in helping businesses get back on their feet.

In fact, a recent survey of residents in Scotland found that 87% of Scotland’s residents rated tourism as the most important industry – higher than any other – in terms of its value to the economy. 87% of those living in tourist areas also believe that tourism will help support local recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the things I would urge everyone to do this year is to be a tourist on your own islands.

It’s important to remember that every time you eat out, visit an attraction or attend an event you are contributing to our islands’ diverse and valuable tourism and event industry. 

Victoria Harvey, Development Manager for the Outer Hebrides, VisitScotland
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle Of Lewis
Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, Isle Of Lewis
Image credit VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

VisitScotland has been responsible for administering recovery funds throughout the tourism industry. Recently, the Destination and Sector Marketing Fund contributed an additional £40,000 to Outer Hebrides Tourism’s Hebridean Wellness campaign which continues to grow from strength to strength, helping visitors to find space to warm their souls in the Outer Hebrides.

Tourism brings many benefits which is why its responsible recovery is so important. But things can’t and won’t be exactly as before. Tourism is evolving. It’s about more than travel. It’s about building forward and creating better places for people to live and visit by managing our economic, environmental and social impact.

We all have a duty of care to protect the natural, social and cultural assets which make the Outer Hebrides so special. As part of our role as the national tourism organisation, we want to not just bring people to Scotland and the Outer Hebrides, but also ensure that they can enjoy Scotland safely and responsibly when here.   

We recently launched our new Keep Scotland Unspoiled campaign to help prevent the examples of irresponsible behaviour that blighted some of our popular locations last year.

Using social media, local radio and the media we will educate, inform and inspire visitors about issues such as water safety, fire safety, motorhomes, dog control and the need to adhere to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. We also continue to support and support the P.L.A.C.E. campaign developed by island communities and Outer Hebrides Tourism, showing visitors that by visiting our landscape and communities responsibly helps to preserve them for years to come.

Being a responsible tourist and respecting and protecting our environment and communities makes for a better experience for everyone. So make sure to know before you go, book ahead and use our Stornoway iCentre or the Welcome Points across the islands as a source of advice and information for visitors, locals and businesses – we’d love to hear from you.

The increasing return of tourism and events is primed to sustain the island economy, especially as we return to some semblance of normalcy. We continue to work with partners, stakeholders and businesses to ensure tourism is managed responsibly to bolster communities, create jobs and improve our wellbeing.

Victoria Harvey, Development Manager for the Outer Hebrides, VisitScotland

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