Orkney has seen a growth in tourist visitor numbers of 18 per cent since 2005 to nearly 142,000 people and an increase in spend, in real terms, of 13 per cent to almost £32 million. Added to this, an overwhelming 95 per cent of visitors would recommend Orkney as a holiday destination. The research comes from a recently released report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Orkney Islands Council and Visit Orkney.
According to the research, carried out over a full year, by AB Associates of Shetland, the main reason for visiting the islands is for a holiday although business tourism has also increased. The area is the destination of choice for an increasing number of Scots, particularly couples on a second holiday. The majority of Orkney's visitors are aged 45 and above, and most – over 80 per cent – come from the UK.
A major change since the 2005 survey has been use of the internet for research. While the figure quoting the internet as an information source stood at 9 per cent in 2005, just four years later it had increased to 70 per cent, and almost 50 per cent of accommodation bookings were made online.
Over 50 per cent of visitors to Orkney took part in sightseeing and touring and the beaches and coastal scenery rated highly. Other areas of interest included archaeology and prehistoric sites, the people and island life. And nearly 50 per cent of tourist visitors when asked said they were likely to return to Orkney. Satisfaction levels are extremely high with 95 per cent of visitors stating that their holiday met their expectations, and 32 per cent of these claiming that their expectations were exceeded. Even when pressed to suggest areas for improvement, over 80 per cent could not think of anything.
While cruise ships were not a focus of the 2009 survey, it is estimated that they bring an additional 45,000 passengers and crew to the islands and over £1.1 million to the economy, which would take the overall figures to almost £188,000 visitors and closer to £33 million in expenditure.
Ruth Kirkpatrick, head of business growth at Highlands and Islands Enterprise said, “A successful tourism industry is vital for the Orkney economy, and we commissioned this research to find out just how the Orkney tourism product rates at a time when costs are more likely to be a concern for visitors. We are delighted that visitor numbers are continuing to increase, and that Orkney's tourism product is so highly regarded. The information is invaluable for planning individual business growth and the growth of the sector as a whole.”
Councillor Ian Johnstone, chair of the Council's Development Committee said, “With regard to the difficult economic climate prevailing in the UK and abroad, it is extremely gratifying to note the growth of Orkney tourism. The Council makes a significant financial contribution annually to marketing Orkney as a destination and supports the development of tourism businesses throughout the islands. It is important that we gather tourism intelligence to demonstrate that the Council's investment continues to have a positive impact on the local economy.”
VisitScotland's Island Manager Orkney, Barbara Foulkes said, “This is fantastic news for Orkney with a 3 per cent average growth year on year since 2005 set against a back drop of challenging economic conditions. Orkney has everything to offer the visitor and it seems the message is spreading. The results also show the strength of working in partnership and how this is delivering tourism growth for the island.”
To view the Orkney Visitor Survey, please visit: