February 28, 2022

VISITOR VOLUNTEERS HELP TO RESTORE AND MAINTAIN SKYE’S UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT

The growth of so-called ‘voluntourism’ – the concept of visitors spending some of their time putting something back in to the communities they visit – has led local Destination Management Organisation, SkyeConnect, to develop a brokerage service to put potential volunteers in touch with companies and community organisations with active projects.

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The service will be hosted on SkyeConnect’s www.myskyetime.com website which provides visitor information on accommodation providers, restaurants and cafes along with attractions, adventures and experiences.

The desire of visitors to give something back is well established on Skye. Staffin Community Trust has been working in partnership with Rabbie’s for six years. The company is a familiar sight in Staffin and can have as many as seven coaches in the community per day. The Rabbie’s drivers and office staff regularly assist with path repair work, which is organised and planned by SCT, with support from Highland Council.

Angus Murray, SCT’s Skye Ecomuseum programme manager, said Rabbie’s were an excellent company to work with and their staff’s efforts were appreciated locally. He said volunteer work is rewarding for all parties but projects need to be carefully planned.

“You need to have a lot of people involved behind the scenes. The preparation work should be done a couple of months in advance and if it is pathwork you need to make sure you have got the right materials and equipment available in advance. SCT has been well supported by Highland Council’s access officer Donald Kennedy in managing the projects with Rabbies up to now. These are tough jobs and the weather is often challenging but Rabbie’s staff have a great attitude and really enjoy working on the ground, even when it is extremely hard work.”

In the South of Skye, Highland Explorer Tours is embarking on a new relationship with Sleat Community Trust to carry out path maintenance, tree planting and the removal of non-native species in Tormore Forest. The company, which also owns the Skye Inn, has been bringing visitors to Skye since 1993. Operations Manager, Claire Christie hopes their “Make Travel Matter Adventure”, planned for October, will be the first of many tours that combine volunteering work with an opportunity to explore some of the less well known parts of Skye.

“We are delighted to be working with the Sleat Community Trust and be part of the transformation of Tormore Forest. As of 1st January 2022, The Skye Inn & Highland Explorer Tours will be carbon neutral and we are continually evolving to support the transition to a low-carbon future. We want to create an experience where visitors can combine volunteering to help make a positive difference to the natural environment, whilst immersing themselves in the culture and rich history of this part of Skye. Our Make travel Matter Adventure planned for October is hopefully the first of many to come!”

The Highland Council Access Officer, Mark Crowe, is currently developing an annual programme of core path maintenance on Skye which could provide many more opportunities for visitors to take part in voluntary activity.

SkyeConnect’s Project Manager, Alistair Danter, believes harnessing the growing desire of visitors to give something back can bring huge benefits to Skye.

SkyeConnect is delighted to play a small part in helping to connect the volunteer spirit of many of our visitors with the companies, community organisations and public agencies carrying out active projects. We appreciate there is a huge amount of work to be undertaken by these organisations to make sure the voluntary work is both safe and completed to professional standards, but the development of ‘voluntourism’ has the potential to bring significant benefits to the landscape and environment of Skye, as well as providing a range of rewarding experiences for visitors.”

Any business that would like to link up with local volunteer initiatives or any Voluntary group wishing to host a voluntourism activity should contact eilidh.munro@skye-connect.com

Simon Cousins

simon@simoncousinsmedia.co.uk

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