March 24, 2021

Mini Bite – from Alistair Danter – 24th March 2021

In Alistair's Mini Bite below you'll find information on our Sectoral Surveys, Visitor Management Summit, A link the recent seminar on Slow Adventure, Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing, STA on-line spring conference, The Skyetime Podcast and a Daily Telegraph Travel article featuring Skye.

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In the week after the road map to re-opening was laid out by the Scottish Government, businesses are now in a better position to plan their activities for the year. While the announcements were welcome, there is still much to do to ensure that we reopen safely and all businesses have a good grasp on their financial and operational systems. 

The short season we experienced in 2020 should have given some strong pointers on the impact of operational issues on business finance. SkyeConnect is concerned that debt is becoming an increasingly significant issue for many sectors. This issue has been included, along with other operational matters, in our current sectoral survey. 

We are always grateful for survey responses as they focus our lobbying efforts with elected representatives and the public sector. Here are links to the surveys and some other news from another busy couple of weeks for SkyeConnect.

Quick Skip

Sectoral Surveys

The current sectoral surveys, that take just 3 mins to complete can be found at:

Hotels: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XF5LRGP

B&B/Self-Catering/Guesthouses: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MKZVY2N

Marine Operators: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XRMSKSQ

Outdoor Activities: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/N8QMPPW

Arts and Crafts: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XQPGLY9

Restaurants/Cafes/Takeaways: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/N95868Z

Visitor Attractions: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/N2P968R

Campsites: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Z2CX3CF

General (Not sector specific): https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NFWCBCP

Visitors Management Summit

SkyeConnect attended an important “Visitor Management Summit” chaired by Fergus Ewing with presentations by VisitScotland, Nature Scot, Police Scotland, the National Parks, Forestry & Land Scotland, Highland Council and Transport Scotland. 

Presentations and initiatives covered Education and Marketing, Investment and Infrastructure, and Prevention, Regulation & Reassurance. The Visitor Management Plan has now been published and is live here https://www.visitscotland.org/about-us/what-we-do/working-in-partnership/visitor-management-plan

The decision by Highland Council to fund and recruit seasonal Rangers is an issue that SkyeConnect has campaigned on for a number of years, so it is good to see it happening.

Slow Adventure Seminar

An online seminar on Slow adventure was attended by 15 local businesses, a recording of the event can be found at  https://we.tl/t-RHWI2Cj5xq

Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing Meeting

Clare Winskill, Director of Skye Connect and representative of Skye and Lochalsh on the newly formed Scottish Guest House and B&B Alliance was one of a group of SGHBBA representatives who met with Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing on 12th  March. 

The meeting discussed levels of support together with reopening issues for the Guest House and B&B sector. This was the first meeting between the SGHBBA and the Cabinet Secretary and it is hoped that further sessions will be possible. SkyeConnect see these meetings as vital in ensuring that the opinions of businesses on Skye & Raasaay and in neighbouring areas are heard at cabinet level.

Online STA Spring Conference

Places are still available at the STA on-line spring conference. Places are free with a line up of impressive speakers. If you want to hear and join the voice of the industry then there’ s no better place to be on Wednesday 24th March! https://scottishtourismalliance.co.uk/sta-spring-virtual-conference-2021/

The Skyetime Podcast

The Skyetime Podcast this week features an interview with Mark Sealey who rowed across the Atlantic in the Talisker Challenge, carrying the Skye Flag on the transom. The podcast provides an insight in to the huge physical and mental challenge……but beware – you may have nightmares after listening to the stiory of a mid-atlantic encounter with a 20 foot Blue Marlin! https://www.buzzsprout.com/852226/8106723

Daily Telegraph Travel Section – Featuring Skye

And Finally, The Daily Telegraph’s Travel section has been looking at how the most popular destinations around the world are planning to cope with an expected influx of visitors once lockdown is lifted. The telegraph looked at initiatives in Venice, Dubrovnik, New Zealand, Iceland…….and Skye. The full article is below.

How the world is preparing for the impending tourism explosion

From crowd-control on Skye to a war room in Venice – measures are in place to avoid a return of overtourism By Greg Dickinson

In 2018, I travelled to Venice, Dubrovnik and Skye to document a phenomenon that had been loitering around for decades – but seemed to be rising across the world. ‘Overtourism’.

One conversation in Venice stands out in my memory. I met long-time resident Deirdre Kelly, an artist at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia, at her studios in Cannaregio.

“Where are the Venetians?” she asked, semi-rhetorically, as she held up a poster designed by the school. “Sometimes I ask myself that question on a Monday morning when I’m confronted by tour groups of forty or fifty people or more. Perhaps they’re asking the same question. Because it’s getting harder and harder to recognise us in and amongst all the tourists.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years and Venetians are asking the opposite question: where are the tourists?

A year after tourism ground to a halt due to Covid-19, whimpered back to life over the summer, and then slammed shut again, the world’s busiest tourist destinations have one task on their mind: how to convince people it is safe to come back. Countries are flouting their ‘Covid secure’ hotels and their straightforward border checks. “Sun, sea and sand” is no longer the selling point. Now, we are lured by vaccine passports, sneeze guards and cancellation policies.

But simmering beneath the rush to welcome back tourists is a counterintuitive question, which cannot be ignored. How can these destinations manage the inevitable negative effects of tourism – rising rent prices, antisocial tourist behaviour, bottleneck overcrowding, littering, lower quality services at hiked prices – sneaking back in? 

Justin Francis of Responsible Travel tells Telegraph Travel: “Destinations will naturally want to re-build what’s called the ‘visitor economy’ as fast as possible. They should do, because it’s people’s livelihoods, and in some cases support for cultural heritage and nature that’s been lost. We are still in the ‘rescue’ phase of the pandemic. However, for many local people tourism isn’t a visitor economy, it’s a nuisance or worse.

“The first step, before anything else, is to ask residents three simple questions; what do you want from tourism, what are the benefits we should maximise, and what are the downsides that we should minimise? At the heart of this conversation is the idea that the right to travel is sacrosanct (or a human right). We must remember that residents have rights too, and that one right does not supersede the other. I don’t allow strangers to visit my home – some places and things should be off limits altogether.”

Francis points out that mass tourism spots like Disneyland, too, have their part to play in managing tourism responsibly. “Everyone seems to have jumped on the idea that we should disperse tourists by marketing a greater range of attractions. In some cases this will be the very worst thing we do –taking large numbers of people from tourism honeypots to small, fragile places just recreates the problem elsewhere.

“Disneyland (which has no residents – apart from Mickey!) or its equivalent are loved by many people, and providing they employ local people and manage carbon, waste and water well – they can be part of the solution.”

As restaurateurs roll up their sleeves and museums dust off their exhibits, local authorities are coming up with creative ways to prepare for the impending tourism explosion. Here’s how the world plans to tackle overtourism in the post-pandemic era.

The director of Florence’s ever-popular Uffizi Galleries has hatched a plan to distribute its masterpieces across Tuscany.

The ‘Uffiizi Diffusi’ project will see artworks from the museum’s vast collection (many of which are current in storage) displayed in smaller venues, such as hotels in historic rural villages. The project will kick off this summer with a handful of locations, before expanding to as many as 100 venues by 2024.

As well as distributing tourists away from Florence, the idea is to “narrate the history of Tuscan art […] to learn chapter by chapter” by taking the artworks back to their original roots, director Eike Schmidt told the Financial Times.

“We just don’t have the space to show them in the gallery. To share them with other towns, and through that, with the world, is the right thing to do,” he said.

The initial line-up of venues will be announced next month. 

New Zealand’s call to action: ‘Do Something New’

In October 2020, Tourism New Zealand released a music video as part of its domestic tourism campaign to encourage people to avoid sticking to the classic tourist sights.

The video, written by and featuring New Zealand comedians Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, encouraged New Zealanders to take a mud bath at Hell’s Gate in Rotorua and bungee jumping off Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown.

Tourism New Zealand’s chief executive Stephen England-Hall said: “We tend to go to the same places year in and year out – we need Kiwis to infuse something ‘new’ into their holiday plans, whether that is a brand new region or something new in their hometown.”

England-Hall said he hoped the song would act as a “conversation starter” to inspire Kiwis to try something new during their next holiday. The country has been hailed for its handling of the pandemic – to date, it has recorded just 2,444 cases and 26 deaths.

A ‘Control Room’ in Venice to monitor crowds

Venice is taking a data-driven approach to monitoring overtourism in the post pandemic era.

A £2.7 million “control room” facility, based in an abandoned warehouse on Tronchetto Island, will allow city officials to track where, exactly, tourists are at any moment using mobile phone data. All other information will remain anonymous, although some are still concerned about data privacy.

The idea is that tourist chiefs can get a more granular overview of where people are congregating, and what modes of transport they are using. Previous tourist control measures in the floating city have included banning fast food outlets, forbidding picnics in certain areas, rolling out a tourist tax and introducing a one-way walking system for visitors.

Speaking to CNN, Marco Bettini, the co-director of Venis which created the system, said: “We know in real time how many people are in each part [of Venice], and which countries they’re from. This is the brain of the city.”

The Inner Hebridean island of Skye has been busy preparing for an influx of tourists after the pandemic.

Simon Cousins, a spokesperson for Skye Connect, told Telegraph Travel that they are working hard to ease congestion at the island’s most popular destinations such as Neist Point, the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Pools.

“We are collaborating with Edinburgh University on a project to provide real-time information on visitor and vehicle numbers at key locations. An app will enable visitors to receive updates, suggestions of quieter times to visit or alternative, less congested sites on that day.

“In addition, we have a new website – myskyetime.com – which will provide visitors planning a trip to Skye with ideas for getting off the beaten track and experiencing more of what Skye has to offer.

“At the same time, public investment in key infrastructure such as new car parks and toilets, along with the creation of a ‘Park and Ride’ service to some popular destinations will all help to reduce congestion when we warmly welcome tourists back to Skye.”

What about the rest of the Scottish Highlands? The Highland Council has announced a £1.5m package to create more toilets, more litter collection, more provision for motorhomes and seasonal rangers to help create a more sustainable tourism model.

Cruise control in Dubrovnik

Compact Dubrovnik is home to just over 1,000 full-time residents, but welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors in normal years.

The Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, says the pandemic has offered the walled city a chance to reset.

“As far as overtourism is concerned, in the period before the pandemic we continuously worked on measures to combat that issue through the Respect the City project and we really laid down a good foundation for the future, so we have all the predispositions for the development of sustainable tourism. 

“This period we´re going through now has allowed us to prioritise things and continue with the activities of this project because although we now have a large reduction in the number of tourists, we haven’t given up on the direction of sustainable tourism. We can say that we have recognised the pandemic as an opportunity to ‘reset’.”

One of the measures is to limit the number of cruise ship passengers docked up in Dubrovnik to 4,000 at any one time. 

New ‘quiet routes’ to relieve the pressure in Iceland

Iceland has developed two new roads to encourage visitors to explore more remote destinations in Iceland: the Westfjords Way, which circles the Westfjords peninsula, and the Diamond Circle, which provides access to waterfalls and wildlife in the north of Iceland.

Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, Head of Visit Iceland, told the Telegraph the island has been pushing to avoid seasonality and to encourage regional distribution. 

“In 2012, Iceland had the highest seasonality in tourist arrivals of all the Nordic countries with most tourists visiting during the summertime. Since then, seasonality has decreased steadily and in 2015 Iceland had the second lowest seasonality among the Nordic countries. In 2019, 66% of tourists visited during autumn, winter and spring combined and 34% visited during summer. 

“Increased focus has been on promoting less visited areas and encouraging tourists to travel further around Iceland. Average room occupancy outside of the capital region has grown from 33% in 2011 to 56% in 2018. “

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