The major economic impact of the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway has been underlined by a new report which shows it brought £2.1 million to the local economy.
HebCelt, headlined by Deacon Blue, The Fratellis, Eddi Reader, Skipinnish, and Roddy Woomble was held from July 18-20 with all four nights sold out.
Overall attendances reached nearly 18,000 over the four days of the event, its highest ever number, with an estimated total in excess of 7,500 paying festival goers.
More than half (56%) of the audience came from outside Lewis and Harris, including 5% from outwith the UK.
In all, 66% of visitors from outside Scotland said HebCelt was the sole or main reason for travelling to Lewis and 70% said they were likely to return.
The festival audience was drawn from across the UK and also abroad, including Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The report by MKA Economics says: “In terms of reasons for visiting the festival, 21% of non-locals were visiting Lewis and Harris for the first time, 79% had visited before. The event can therefore be seen to have played an important role in attracting new visitors to the area, as well as encouraging repeat trips”.
Overall, the festival directly generated net economic effect of £2.1 million, which has helped safeguard 38 tourism-related jobs.
The figures almost exactly mirror those from the 2016 HebCelt, headlined by Runrig, previously the most successful in the event’s history.
HebCelt Director Caroline Maclennan said: “As these figures clearly illustrate, the festival is a significant economic driver and a major tourism magnet for the Outer Hebrides and beyond.
“After 23 years, HebCelt’s popularity continues to develop and the feedback from festival goers has been tremendous.
“It’s deeply rewarding when capturing these statistics to see that, not only do we get so many return visitors, but the event continues to attract new visitors each year.
“As a charitable event run almost entirely by volunteers, it is enormously satisfying that the hard work that goes into organising the festival helps generate such rewards for our supportive community.”