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Visit Scotland | Alba


  • Closer to Norway than Scotland, the Shetland Isles have their own cultural heritage that captivates. With an abundance of wildlife amongst the rocky crags and heather clad hills, Shetland is awe-inspiring. 
  • Statistics on the volume and value of visitors to individual regions of Scotland are collated from several national surveys. These include the International Passenger Survey, the Great Britain Tourism Survey and the Great Britain Day Visits Survey.
  • These national surveys were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated travel restrictions. Prior to the pandemic, three year average figures were produced for some individual regions due to some having lower sample sizes on an annual basis.
  • We are currently reviewing the full year 2022 data to establish what is feasible at a regional level. It may be that some regions will require to be amalgamated to produce an indication of regional performance until more data is available.

1. Key statistics

80 thousand


£35.8 million

total spend


first time visitors to Shetland

Figures taken from Shetland Islands Visitor Survey 2019

2. Shetland Way Feasibility Study 2022

The Shetland Way is a proposed long distance walking route. In 2022, a feasibility study was carried out by Stantec on behalf of VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Shetland Islands Council, NatureScot and Shetland Tourism Association. The study involved case study reviews, stakeholder consultations and a survey of Shetland residents and past and potential visitor to Shetland.

Shetland Way feasibility study

Published April 2023

Find out more about the findings of a wide-ranging feasibility study carried out on the proposed Shetland Way long distance walking route.

Shetland Way executive summary

Published April 2023

Read the executive summary on the findings of a wide-ranging feasibility study carried out on the proposed Shetland Way long distance walking route.

3. Shetland Islands Visitor Survey 2019

The Islands Visitor Survey 2019 was commissioned by Orkney Islands Council, Shetland Islands Council and VisitScotland. The main aim of the survey was to gather views on a wide range of topics relating to the visitor profile and experience. In addition, due to the 'defined' entry/exit points for each island, information was gathered to estimate the volume and value of visitors to each island at a robust level.

The research was carried out between January and December 2019 by Progressive Partnership Limited. 3,363 calibration interviews were conducted and 424 completed online surveys received.

Key highlights include:

  • Profile of visitors to Shetland

    77% of leisure visitors were visiting Shetland for the first time, 23% were repeat visitors.

    40% were from Scotland, 32% from the rest of the UK.

    15% were from Europe, 7% from North America and 6% from other overseas countries.

  • Purpose of visit to Shetland

    50% were visiting for a leisure or holiday trip.

    20% were visiting friends or relatives.

    28% were on a business trip.

  • Motivations to visit Shetland

    The scenery, the history and culture were the main factors influencing leisure visitors to visit Shetland.

    Some leisure visitors were also inspired by TV programmes, travel features in the press and books. The TV detective series ‘Shetland’ and books were particularly influential.

Shetland Islands Visitor Survey 2019

Published May 2020

Shetland Islands Visitor Survey 2019 - executive summary

Published May 2020

Notes on the interpretation of Islands Visitor Survey 2019

Published May 2020

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