Skye firms hit back at reports of island swamped with tourists

A coach firm has said visitor numbers at the Fairy Pools have reached "saturation point".
A coach firm has said visitor numbers at the Fairy Pools have reached "saturation point".
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Skye tourism businesses alarmed at reports the island is being swamped by tourists have issued an open letter stressing it is “well and truly open for business”.

More than 150 operators have taken the “unprecedented” step “in a bid to balance sensationalist reporting about tourism pressures on the island”.

Last week, pictures were circulated of cars parked on the verge of roads for miles around the Old Man of Storr rock pinnacle.

There have also been reports of traffic choking single-track roads around other major tourist draws, such the Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle.

The letter was coordinated by tourism body SkyeConnect and Skye SNP MSP Kate Forbes, who is also the public finance and digital economy minister.

Other signatories include Isabella MacDonald of Kinloch Lodge and organisations representing attractions such as the Old Man of Storr, Fairy Pools and Dunvegan Castle.

The letter stated: “The tourist industry can be a relatively unpredictable industry and so it concerns us to see sensationalist stories in the press, for a second year running, which could jeopardise the jobs, businesses and income of local people.

“We would hate to see an industry which has taken many years to develop undermined by a few stories which don’t fairly depict the efforts of hardworking people across the area.

“Whilst it is true that some areas of the island are busy, it is no more so than the North Coast 500 or the likes of Morar Sands.”

BACKGROUND: Tourists urged to spread out across Skye to stop visitor crush

The letter said funding had been secured for a car park and toilets at the Fairy Pools.

It said there had been road improvements at Neist Point, and parking had been built at the Quiraing landslip, while work on a car park extension for the Old Man of Storr would start by the end of the summer.

A new viewing platform had also been built at the Lealt Gorge.

SkyeConnect chair Shirley Spear, who owns the Three Chimneys restaurant, said: “My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to dispel the myth that Skye is over-run with tourists and unwelcome here.

“Indeed, some damaging stories have appeared without any comment being sought locally from Skye.

"We have stressed continually, that Skye is not the only place in Scotland to have been challenged by the high visitor numbers experienced all over the country during 2017, urban and rural locations alike.

"For Skye to have been singled-out is erroneously skewed."

Edinburgh-based coach operator Timberbush tours welcomed the parking plans for the Fairy Pools.

It said the waterfalls attracted 108,000 visitors last year but there were just 35 parking spaces.

Chief executive Steve Spalding said: “Up until now, we, like many other coach tour operators and private vehicles, are facing long delays reaching our intended destination.

“True, no one could ever imagine the surge of tourism into the area, but we now have a strategy to relieve the pressure on the local communities, particularly around the Glen Brittle area on Skye.

“It’s a tranquil place of outstanding natural beauty, but the Fairy Pools has almost become a shrine to tens of thousands of people from all corners of the world, so something needed to be done to alleviate the traffic burden.

“It really has been saturation point.”

Mr Spalding said Skye’s popularity with overseas tourists - particularly China - was underlined by the launch of twice-weekly flights from Beijing to Edinburgh in June.

READ MORE: Skye tourists urged to book before visiting ‘full’ island