Airbnb has named the Outer Hebrides one of the world’s top travel destinations to head for in 2019 by Airbnb after reporting bookings soaring by nearly 150 per cent in a year.
Searches for homes available for breaks in the islands have leapt up by 170 per cent over the last 12 months.
They have claimed ninth place in a global league table of “must-visit spots” - alongside destinations in New Zealand, China, Mexico, Argentina and Japan.
Airbnb has cited the “beautiful but rugged natural splendour” of the islands. It has singled out the Isle of Barra for praise for the famous flight which lands on a beach, and also highlighted the wildlife-spotting opportunities, and the launch of new Neftlix Robert the Bruce epic Outlaw King - which it has dubbed an “unofficial sequel” to Braveheart - as reasons to “inspire a little wanderlust.”
Airbnb said the 19 destinations it singled out also reflected a growing desire from travellers to explore more “off-the-beaten-path” destinations.
However the booking site said they had also been chosen as places which will benefit from “sustainable and authentic” tourism.
A number of leading tourism destinations around the world have brought in restrictions on letting out homes on sites like Airbnb amid fears that the short break market has priced local residents and workers out of the property market.
According to the most recent figures, more than half the visitors to the Outer Hebrides are drawn from around Scotland, with 28 per cent from the rest of the UK, 11 per cent from elsewhere in Europe and four per cent from North America.
Nearly three quarters of visitors to the Outer Hebrides cited its scenery and landscapes as the main reason for taking a trip there, with nearly a third drawn by its heritage and culture. Around a fifth said they had been inspired to book a holiday in the Outer Hebrides by a TV show.
An article on Airbnb’s site on the 19 best destinations to visit in 2019 states: “An island chain of many names off the west coast of Scotland, the beautiful but rugged natural splendor of this region may seem reminiscent of the 1995 film depicting a crucial moment in Scotland and England’s history, and the recent unofficial sequel on Netflix.
“Wildlife really is everywhere: red deer (outnumbering humans 30 to 1!), golden eagles, and in the surrounding waters otters, whales, dolphins and more. Even the Barra Airport is an attraction as it’s one of the only commercial airports in the world where the planes land on a beach, providing a spectacle often met with applause by travelers during takeoffs and landings.
“Based on a combination of Airbnb search, booking and wish list growth data, we’re once again forecasting growing interest in more off-the-beaten-path regions, cities and towns to explore.
“We’ve found that most of our trending destinations are places where the increased “healthy,” more sustainable and authentic tourism will benefit residents and travellers alike.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of national tourism agency VisitScotland, said: “Whether you want to get an adrenaline kick along the Hebridean Way or delve into Scotland’s fascinating past at the Calanais Stones - the Outer Hebrides have something for everyone.
“It is wonderful to see the islands recognised by Airbnb as one of the top destinations to visit in the world next year. It’s a beautiful place to visit all year round, with many hidden gems just waiting to be uncovered.”
AIRBNB'S TOP 19 DESTINATIONS TO VISIT IN 2019
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Great Smoky Mountains, United States
Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, United States
Santa Catarina State, Brazil