Shetland tourism boost as Geopark status renewed

SHETLAND has secured designation as a member of the European Geoparks Network for another four years in a major boost for the islands’ tourism economy.

he Remote Island of Foula near the Shetland Islands

There are currently only 100 Geoparks in 28 countries across the globe - 58 of them within the European Network.

Geoparks are designated sites of geological importance which play an essential part in promoting tourism.

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A spokeswoman for the Shetland Amenity Trust and Geopark Shetland said today that officials of the European Geoparks Network had unanimously decided to retain Shetland within the network at a meeting of the EGN Coordinating Committee in Italy earlier this month.

She continued: “Geopark Shetland has secured over £200,000 in funding since joining the European Geopark Network in 2009. The Geopark has seen year-on-year increases in awareness of Geopark status. In 2012 76 per cent of those surveyed knew that Shetland was a Geopark and 11 per cent of respondents from outside Shetland said the Geopark was part of their reason for visiting the islands. Assuming average visitor spend of £20, this indicates that Geopark status brings an additional £110,000 per year in tourism revenue to Shetland from 11 per cent of the 50,000 visitors to the Geopark.”

Robina Barton, Geopark Shetland’s Geology Project Officer, said: “We are thrilled to retain our hard won membership of the European and Global Geoparks Networks and we will be doing our best to capitalise on this membership in the coming years with support from the Scottish Government, so that we can really benefit the people of Shetland – particularly through tourism and lifelong learning. A report from the UNESCO National Commission makes clear that Geoparks are making a difference both in terms of community opportunities and direct financial benefit and that is only going to increase as the Global Network expands and develops.”

She explained: “New projects include Northern Georoutes – a collaboration with Geoparks from Norway, Iceland and Canada which seeks to promote Geoparks within the North Atlantic Region as tourist destinations and develop travel packages in partnership with local tourism providers.”