Tourism investment should not be a “sticking plaster”, Skye conference is told

Shirley Spear said a ‘united approach’ was important to make the most of Skye’s rising popularity. Pic, Willie Urquhart

By KEITH MACKENZIE

Recent funding for tourism projects in Skye will become be a “sticking plaster rather than a lasting remedy” unless further investment follows in the coming years, industry representatives have been warned.

Businesses and community groups from across the region gathered in Sleat last Thursday for the first annual conference held by tourism management group Skye Connect.

The event at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig brought industry delegates together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the island on the back of a recent surge in visitor numbers.

Contributors included the Skye restaurateur and co-founder member of Skye Connect Shirley Spear,  Rob MacKinnon from the Outer Hebrides Tourism group and Marc Crothall, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

Colin Simpson , Highland Council’s principal officer for Tourism, said there was a case for local authority investment in the industry, but it couldn’t be at the expense of other statutory council services – issues which he said had been well highlighted in the West Highland Free Press. Pic, Willie Urquhart

Recent public investment in infrastructure at some of Skye’s most popular sites was warmly welcomed – with speakers noting that the collaborative approach promoted by Skye Connect was key to promoting the islands’ case for investment.

Shirley Spear said the funding was great news for the area, but added: “We need to be strong, and united to make the case for change and investment in the whole area. If we don’t then the recent good news could become a sticking plaster rather than a longer lasting remedy.”

In recent weeks over £1.3 million worth of funding from the Scottish Government, European Union and Highland Council has been pledged towards additional car parking and road improvements at Neist Point, Fairy Pools and Quiraing on Skye.

Last year Tourism Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited Skye to reveal plans for a £6 million Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund – and the projects at the Fairy Pools and Neist Point will be among the first to benefit.

The conference attracted representatives from businesses and community groups in Skye and Lochalsh. Pic, Willie Urquhart

Full coverage of the Skye tourism conference will be in this week’s Free Press, out on Thursday