Tourism meet­ings planned in a bid to ease pres­sure on Skye

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

HELP for Skye busi­nesses and res­i­dents to cope with growing tourism pres­sures is on the cards.

Next month sees the first of a se­ries of meet­ings tak­ing place in a bid to gather ex­per­tise from across Scot­land, as the first step in a process to make it eas­ier for peo­ple on the is­land to cope with growing num­bers of vis­i­tors.

The meet­ing will be held in Portree on Fri­day June 9.

It is hoped that the second of the se­ries of dis­cus­sions, which will re­view the sum­mer’s ac­tiv­i­ties, will take place in Septem­ber.

MSP Kate Forbes said that, as the sum­mer heats up, ho­tels are al­ready fully booked for the sea­son ahead.

She ex­plained: ‘This year is go­ing to be just as busy, if not busier, than last year. The ques­tion for all of us is how we cap­i­talise on the surge in tourism, rather than col­lapse un­der the pres­sures on in­fra­struc­ture and ameni­ties.

‘While Skye is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar, other parts of the High­lands are also fac­ing chal­lenges too.’

The Skye MSP is set to host the first of two dis­cus­sions, one be­fore and one af­ter the busiest months of the year.

Ms Forbes has in­vited rep­re­sen­ta­tives from other ar­eas of Scot­land who have faced a surge in tourism to the meet­ing.

She said: ‘These rep­re­sen­ta­tives will out­line how they or­gan­ised them­selves to find so­lu­tions to the lo­cal chal­lenges and cap­i­talise on the enor­mous boost to the lo­cal econ­omy.

‘The pur­pose of these two meet­ings is to see if there are things we can learn from other places in Scot­land and so turn tourism into an op­por­tu­nity, rather than a chal­lenge.

‘Of course, there is a lot to do and no dis­cus­sion will prove to be the magic wand to solve all the prob­lems. But if other places can do it, then so can we.’ Last month the Lochaber

Times re­ported Mingin­ish Com­mu­nity Hall’s am­bitous plans to buy and im­prove the car park at the Fairy Pools.

Richard Pow­ell from the Mingin­ish Com­mu­nity Hall said more than 108,000 peo­ple vis­ited the Fairy Pools last year, but, with just 35 spa­ces, prob­lems arose.

He told the Lochaber Times: ‘We end up with 100 or more cars parked along the verges and in pass­ing places.’

He said that the pop­u­lar tourist spot has been busy since Fe­bru­ary. The vol­ume of vis­i­tors is cre­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems for res­i­dents who stay in the nearby vil­lage, Glen Brit­tle.

Mr Pow­ell pre­dicted a bumper year for tourism in Skye, stat­ing many B&Bs and guest houses are al­ready fully booked for the sea­son.

In what is be­lieved to be a record-break­ing year for tourism on Skye, some res­i­dents have said there has been lit­tle re­spite from vis­i­tors dur­ing the win­ter months.

Ear­lier this year SkyeCon­nect, a new des­ti­na­tion man­age­ment group, was launched on Skye. The group hopes to play a key role in the fu­ture of the is­land’s tourism in­dus­try.

At its launch, chair­woman Shirley Spears, who owns The Three Chim­neys res­tau­rant on the is­land, said: ‘ We look for­ward to work­ing with the Skye com­mu­nity and its part­ners to cre­ate a ro­bust and dy­namic or­gan­i­sa­tion for the is­land.’

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