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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 25/01/2024

Introduction from Development Manager, Steve Mathieson

I’m delighted to share our first industry update of 2024 showcasing our work in the last six months. Across the regional teams in VisitScotland, we work hand in hand with businesses, partners and stakeholders involved in Shetland's vibrant tourism industry.

It’s been a busy period including a lot of activity with partners including Shetland’s Local Action Group, Shetland Community Bike Project, Shetland Way Steering Group, Scalloway Community Development Company, and Geopark Shetland Partners Working Group.

The visitor survey group is working hard to develop a new visitor survey in 2024, with Shetland and Orkney councils working together to fund the project which will be managed by VisitScotland. This survey will most likely run for six months from April to October and supply us with data vital to the further development of tourism in the isles.

In December I attended a Shetland Textile Summit arranged by MSP Beatrice Wishart and VisitScotland supported the Shetland Tourism Conference in November. I jointly presented with HIE on the Shetland Tourism Strategy Refresh and our Industry Relationship Manager Lee Inkster presented on the travel trade.

Events such as these give us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on Shetland and to encourage partnership working and collaboration.

And it was a pleasure as Chair of the Lerwick BID to take delivery of the town centre Christmas tree and to help deliver and steward the annual Christmas parade. The impact of tourism spreads far beyond the industry itself - it not only benefits our economy but our community.

We look forward to some exciting projects coming in force this year.

All the best for 2024


Marketing Shetland

  • The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands - paid marketing

    Our £185,000 autumn 2023 campaign ran from late August until November and included UK & EU digital media, a UK partnership with The Guardian and a European partnership with Die  Zeit.

    The following are a few key statistics from the campaign:

    • the UK paid digital media delivered over 17 million impressions and a reach of 5 million, as well as 60,000 clicks to the campaign page with a total of 1.4 million video views

    • the UK publishing partnership with The Guardian achieved great results and engagement with over 62,000 web visits to the articles, and an average dwell time of 3 min 47 seconds exceeding all expectations

    • the Dutch campaign delivered 12 million impressions, and a reach of 2 million as well as 42,000 clicks and 408,000 video views

    • the German market partnership with Die Zeit achieved 1.5 million ad impressions and 5800 web visits to the article and an average dwell time of 2 min 56 seconds (all above forecasts)

  • The Spirit of the Highlands and Islands - multimedia

    The team created three new autumn videos and a wider suite of multimedia content and imagery to showcase the region’s distinctive heritage and authentic connections with rural communities.

    Watch the video which features St Ninian's beach on


  • Scotland's UNESCO trail

    Scotland’s UNESCO trail was launched in October 2021 and was designed specifically to support ambitions to showcase Scotland as a world-leading responsible tourism destination.

    With dedicated funding made available by the Scottish Government, we launched a marketing campaign in October 2022 which built on the success of previous activity around the launch of the trail.

    With the activity concluded, a series of webinars took place over summer / autumn with Scottish Government, designation site representations and the UK UNESCO Commission to present the results of this activity.

    We also presented to a meeting of the Nordic UNESCO delegates who were keen to learn more about the development and success of the trail.

    Our insights team are continuing work on an economic impact report which will be publishing in 2024. 

    Read more about Scotland’s UNESCO trail on

    Browse the Shetland trail map on


    The team at have been reviewing and updating some of our key pages for the region. These are handy to share with your visitors or link to on your website.

    They include information on how to get to Shetland, where to go and where to stay. The following are a few examples:


    The team have also worked on national piece which feature Shetland, these are popular with visitors looking for inspiration on where to visit. The following are a few examples:

Corporate press activity

  • In July, we provided a quote about Shetland Geopark being included in the world’s first UNESCO trail for inclusion in a press release by Promote Shetland.
  • Also in July, our Development Manager Steve Mathieson was interviewed by STV and the Shetland News about the arrival of the Tall Ships in Shetland and their impact on tourism.
  • As part of the Scottish Thistle Awards programme for 2023, we announced businesses shortlisted including Seabirds and Seals and The Original Noss Boat Tours, who were successful in two categories. Read our announcement of businesses shortlisted.
  • In November, the Scottish Islands – including Shetland - was chosen as a "best place to go in 2024" by popular US travel media company, Frommer's. Read our news item on the full story.
  • In December, we compiled an opinion editorial from Development Manager Steve Mathieson, featuring the autumn and winter marketing activity to drive year-round visitors and reflecting on the current climate for tourism. Coverage included an interview with Steve on BBC Radio Shetland.
  • In October, we issued about the latest part of the Spirt of the Highlands and Islands project. Read our release sent to local media.

Press release

Global PR activity


We assisted journalist Assa Samaké-Roman with ideas for her piece for Le Figaro "Where to go in Scotland in September – 8 places that we’ve fallen for." This included a nod to Unst.

The coverage looked at its natural wonders and highlights its importance as an archaeological site. It promotes Muckle Flugga, the most northerly lighthouse in the UK, as a must-see and looks at the wildlife element with rare birds and seal spotting.

In addition, we had a great documentary with a focus on Shetland air in November in both Germany and France on cultural TV channel ARTE. This particular programme is shining a light on how Shetland inspired Sir Walter Scott and also about the famous Fair Isle jumpers.

Watch the show (in German) on



The Sunday Telegraph published a  print article in August 2023 on the 10 wonders of the British Isles. Shetland ponies and Shetland Islands were included as one of the breath-taking experiences together with the beaches and shores. An image of the Shetland ponies was spotlighted in the article.



We worked with Chinese journalist, Hailyu Zhang, for his trip to Scotland in June 2023. His articles were published on So Figaro China and News Weekly Magazine online in August 2023.

It covered slow travel, lovely stories staying with local hosts, engaging / interacting with local small businesses and residents, summer / music festivals, cycling and travelling by public transportation.

North America


Shetland was included in Frommer’s best places to go in 2024 list, being highlighted as a destination with Viking settlements and brimming with wildlife.

Read the full article at



As a result of conversations with InsideHook contributor, Shetland was included in a round up on five remote cold-weather islands to visit. The feature highlights the nearly 800 islands off the coast of Scotland, pointing to Shetland as the most majestic.



Reader’s Digest

The North America PR team worked with journalist Cassandra Brooklyn, and following a press visit and lots of pitching, Reader’s Digest published a feature on the best places to see the northern lights.

The article features Scotland as a destination that visitors may not expect when deciding where to go to see the northern lights, but specifically notes the likes of Shetland as a remote location with prime opportunity for aurora-viewing.

Read the article on

Shetland on social media

1.26 million reach

Number of times Shetland content reached people on social media.

130,000 engagements

Reactions, likes and comments, shares and saves of Shetland posts.

404,000 reached

Top performing post by reach was a short tour of Shetland Geopark.

Travel Trade activity

The travel trade play a crucial role in helping international visitors to choose a destination, as well as to plan and book their trip. The following are a few highlights from the last six months from our travel trade team:

two people working together

Find out more about the Travel Trade

Related links