Better toilet provision, camper van waste disposal points, outdoor eating sites and electric bike hire are among improvements being made to visitor facilities around the Outer Hebrides with a £320,000 funding boost.
The money, distributed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has been shared by 10 community groups to help rebuild the islands’ vital tourism sector after the Covid-19 lockdowns.
Among organisations to benefit from the Community Led Tourism Infrastructure (CLTI) funds were West Harris Trust, which received £127,718 to upgrade campsite facilities at Seilebost. On Lewis, Galston Estate Trust is using its £91,260 funding to upgrade outdoor tourist infrastructure around the estate.
Lisa Maclean, the Galston trust’s chief executive said: “The support has helped us to put a camping disposal unit in place, build toilet facilities, and create more sheltered outdoor spaces and seating on the estate.
“We recently launched a new website to promote north Lewis as a destination and provided tourism packs with local information to all accommodation providers.
“HIE’s support enables us to be better prepared from an infrastructure perspective and compliments the work we’ve already taken by way of promotion and destination management.
“We want to ensure the experience is positive for both those visiting, but also for the community who live here.”
Harris Golf Club will use funding it received to enhance social distancing measures the Scarista course and make facilities available to visitors as well as golfers.
On the west side of Lewis, Bragar and Arnol Community Trust will use the support to make the Grinneabhat Centre Covid-safe and build an outdoor cooking and eating facility. Great Bernera Community Development Trust is being supported to create 24-hour access to toilets for visitors to Bosta Beach.
In Uig, Gallan Head Community Trust will provide outside seating and picnic benches using the fund and Uig Development trust was awarded £6,600 to renovate a remote off-grid shieling in Mangersta to provide a base for walkers between Uig and Harris.
North Uist Development Company will invest in new facilities in Lochmaddy and Uist Wool will build an external porch area and install new interpretation panels.
Point and Shandwick Coastal Community Path has been awarded funds to support the purchase of e-bikes.
Kathleen Stewart, from HIE, said: “Community groups have been vital in ensuring emergency funds have reached those most impacted by the effects of Covid-19.
“More recently we’ve seen demand grow for help as organisations prepare to restart normal activities. Our short term CLTI investments have helped them prepare for a safer re-opening to help welcome tourists back to our islands and bring economic benefits to our communities.”
Last week it was announced that up to four new jobs are to be created in the Outer Hebrides as part of a £710,000 drive to rebuild the islands’ tourism industry in the wake of the pandemic.
A series of new initiatives to boost the sector’s recovery will be launched in a three-year project run by destination management organisation Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT).
HIE is contributing £375,000 to the scheme.