Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

‘This needs to change urgently’. Calls for cash for Skye as visitor numbers rocket

Skye by numbers: At the height of the 2023 tourist season, the equivalent of the island's population drove to Skye in a day.

The number of people driving over the Skye Bridge is increasing

Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson
The number of people driving over the Skye Bridge is increasing Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

Fresh calls have been made for more tourism funding for Skye after new figures showed a rise in visitor numbers.

Business group SkyeConnect says the number of vehicles crossing the Skye Bridge rose by 11% last year between April and September.

The number of vehicles heading to the island during the key tourism period last year increased by more than 50,000 to 496,753.

In August alone, there were 229,000 crossings, with some days seeing the number of vehicle movements matching Skye’s population of over 13,000.

Call for for emergency funding

SkyeConnect says the increases demonstrate the need for effective destination management and investment in infrastructure to protect the island.

Gary Curley, the group’s executive chair, is urging the Scottish Government to provide emergency funding.

He is calling for help to maintain and enhance Skye’s infrastructure and to develop a long-term tourism management plan for the island.

“This data highlights Skye’s ever-growing appeal”, he says.

“Alarmingly, there is no long-term destination plan or tourism strategy for Scotland’s second most popular destination due to lack of resources.

“This needs to change urgently.

Tourist friends on a top of mountains in a Scottish Highlands.
There are calls for more funds to help mnage growing numbers of visitors to Skye. Image Shutterstock

“We must hold the government accountable and ask why a destination generating over £260 million in economic output faces a future without a destination management organisation (DMO).”

Mr Curley says while England has invested in DMOs following a review, Scotland is set to cut DMO funding.

“It’s reckless and will hinder the Scottish Government’s ability to meet its own objectives for tourism.

“SkyeConnect wants Skye to be a leader in sustainable tourism. But without government intervention, tourism growth on Skye will become unsustainable and our environment, communities, businesses, and economy will suffer devastating long-term consequences.”

‘Encouraging’ figures highlight need for funding

The figures show vehicle crossings have risen by 19% since the first year of recovery after Covid in 2021.

SkyeConnect says while more data is needed, over 65% of bridge crossings in 2023 were tied to the peak tourism months.

Island councillor John Finlayson said the figures come as no surprise.

He said they support Highland Council data from places like the Old Man of Storr where paths have been repaired following damage, including from walkers.

“While these figures are encouraging for the tourism industry and the economy of Skye, they also highlight the continued need for ongoing investment in both destination management and infrastructure projects which clearly are also more difficult to fund in the current challenging economic climate.”

Gary Curley
Gary Curley says there is no long-term destination plan or tourism strategy for Skye

He said it is crucial that public bodies, visitor groups and other  agencies continue to work together to develop ways of working and joint investment to provide the best experiences  for tourists and residents

Last year SkyeConnect made a plea to have money raised from a mooted tourist tax  spent on the island due to pressures on its environment, infrastructure and communities.

Tourism minister Richard Lochhead said: “We are committed to growing and diversifying Scotland’s visitor economy, and also to ensuring places across the country can develop, manage and benefit from tourism effectively and responsibly.

“Our national tourism strategy – Scotland Outlook 2030 – outlines our ambition to become a world leader in 21st century tourism.

Covid funding to DMOs

“We recognise the role that Destination Management Organisations can play in supporting this ambition.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) provided £3 million Covid-19 recovery funding for DMOs.

Mr Lochhead added; “Whilst this funding package is coming to an end, HIE nevertheless stand ready to support SkyeConnect and other DMOs through a wide range of products and programmes while also helping them transition to sustainable, commercial business models.”

 

Conversation