Tourists on Skye are being urged to ditch the bucket lists, go easy on the selfie hunt and spend a little more time soaking up the true essence of the island.
The #Skyetime campaign has been launched to encourage visitors to “stay longer, see less and experience more” of the island which has recorded a rise in visitor numbers in recent years and overcrowding at its most popular tourist draws.
While parts of the local economy have benefited from the island’s popularity, the rise in quick coach trips to the “Big Five” sights of Old Man of Storr, Fairy Glen, The Fairy Pools, Quiraing and Neist Point has helped create its own set of problems with congestion on single track roads and parking spaces and disruption for islanders.
Concerns over a lack of respect for Skye’s breathtaking landscape have also been raised with reports of stones being taken from old walls in Fairy Glen and used to build social-media friendly rock stacks and formations which locals have taken to dismantling once visitors have gone.
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Now, tourists are being encouraged to extend their trips, stay longer than an afternoon and expand their experience of the island beyond the ‘tick list’ hot spots.
Activities such as campfires on the beach, coastal walks, live music gigs or a cruise to the little island of Rona, where the freshest of langoustines and a bowl of Cullen Skink can be served for lunch in the natural harbour, are among those suggested by #Skyetime.
The campaign was set up by SkyeConnect, which is made up of business owners and aims to manage tourism in Skye and the surrounding areas.
A spokesman said: “Residents and businesses are all too familiar with so-called ‘tick-box tourists’ spending just a few hours on the island while they grab selfies at some of the iconic locations. These visitors will always come to Skye and they will always be welcome, but SkyeConnect wants to encourage people to consider slowing the pace, planning longer stays, exploring and experiencing so much more.”
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It is hoped that the #Skyetime campaign will have a “transformational effect” on the island economy by attracting people to spend more time on Skye and visit other parts of the island.
Skye attracts around 650,000 visitors a year, with around 28 per cent of tourists drawn from the international market and 72 per cent coming from other parts of the United Kingdom.
Between 2014 and 2017, visitor numbers increased by 15 per cent. A “behaviour switch” was also noted with estimated visitor numbers at the top five sites increasing by 55 per cent with a fall of numbers recorded at other attractions.
The Moffat Centre tourism consultancy at Glasgow Caledonian University is analysing Skye visitor trends over a year. Initial findings from a residents survey on the impact of tourism on the island show 30 per cent of respondents believe dangerous driving of visitors is the biggest issue. A lack of infrastructure such as too few toilets (18 per cent), poor roads (14 per cent), poor parking (7 per cent) and lack of public transport (2 per cent) was also reported.
Chris Taylor, Regional Leadership Director at VisitScotland, said: “There is a growing worldwide travel trend which shows visitors are seeking out an immersive and authentic visitor experience when planning a trip and this is perfectly captured by Skye Time. With its wealth of breath-taking scenery, history and culture, there is so much more to explore on Skye.”