VisitScotland has appointed a new development manager for the Outer Hebrides.
Victoria Harvey stepped into the role which will see her work with stakeholders and partners across the island chain to find ways to support the growth of the visitor economy.
Here, the Stornoway-local explains how she is keen to engage with the communities across the islands and highlights some of the tourism developments in the pipeline:
“The last 18 months have been transformative for everyone. As I start in this new role with VisitScotland, I am excited to work with and support the community and tourism industry on the islands as we move forward through this new normal.
“Prior to becoming VisitScotland’s Development Manager for the Outer Hebrides, I had the pleasure of operating the visitor centre, on behalf of the charitable trust at the iconic Calanais Standing Stones.
“I have also worked across the tourism industry for several years, from developing and launching the Eat Drink Hebrides Food and Drink Trail across the Outer Hebrides, to heritage tourism with the Scottish Tourism Alliance and I have sold holidays across the country with McKinlay Kidd.
“In a past life I could rhyme off most of the bus timetables and ferry timetables across the entire country.
“Since 2020, tourism businesses across the country and especially in the Outer Hebrides, navigated several hurdles and faced a lot of uncertainty.
“All while trying to keep our communities safe.
“And although the challenges are not behind us, I know from my time at Calanais, that re-opening meant the return of warm faces greeting me as friends, watching new explorers discover the wonders of the Outer Hebrides and seeing the island through their eyes for the first time all over again.
“Often on tough days, I took stock of this and was glad for some semblance of normality and confidence in the road ahead.
“With the re-opening of domestic and now international travel, there is a serious focus on how the tourism industry can thrive responsibly and sustainably now and in the future.
“VisitScotland, is working with several partners to promote responsible tourism, while encouraging and supporting its development within the industry, communities, destinations, visitors and strategic partners.
“We are encouraging visitors to know before they go, leave no trace and to consider more sustainable ways to travel as well as slowing down to take the time to savour the moments along the way and leaving behind the likes, check lists and tick boxes.
“This has been bolstered by Outer Hebrides Tourism’s P.L.A.C.E campaign with activity covering parking in designated areas only, motorhome guidance, and holidaying amongst a working land.
“It is very encouraging to see improvements being made at pressure points across the islands thanks to the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund and the collaborative working of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and partners.
“The award of £230k saw car park upgrades, electrical hook up points and campervan services at Niseabost, Luskentyre, Gallan Head and the Butt of Lewis with more on the horizon.
“It is worth remembering that many come to the islands to enjoy the culture, nature and what we have to offer and the more that we can do to educate them on how to visit responsibly, the better the experience for everyone.
“I’m passionate about responsible tourism, especially how it can be used protect the fragile place that we live in while boosting the local economy.
“I am looking forward to working with stakeholders to facilitate community led tourism as we continue to help visitors make responsible choices whilst here.
“Our VisitScotland iCentre team in Stornoway play an essential part in this goal.
“The staff provide invaluable information and support for old and new visitors as well as locals when the need arises.
“The iCentre underwent an extensive refurbishment just before lockdown in March 2020 so make sure you pop in for a look and to say hello.
“As we move towards winter and next season, we can focus on recovery into 2022 and beyond.
“‘Scotland is Calling’ is VisitScotland’s first global campaign since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving an exciting taste of things to come as we welcome international visitors back to Scotland to aid the industry’s recovery.
“We have also seen brilliant campaigns from Outer Hebrides Tourism including one focused on promoting the Gaelic culture of the islands.
“The language provides an extra layer of authenticity for visitors and has a unique culture you can only truly touch in Scotland.
“Through the Gaelic Tourism Strategy, VisitScotland is encouraging visitors and the wider tourism industry to embrace and promote the language.
“And with 2022 being celebrated as the Year of Stories – Gaelic and key role it plays in telling Scotland’s story will be an exciting part of this.
““I am thrilled to be a part of the VisitScotland team and really look forward to working with the local industry and communities.
“Partnership and collaboration are at the heart of Scottish tourism and this is especially true in the islands.
“We need to strike a balance that allows communities to flourish whilst also benefitting from tourism and this is one of the prime focuses of my role and the role of VisitScotland in the Outer Hebrides.
“This is because tourism is not just a holiday, it is a force for good, creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.”