Over 150 businesses from the Isle of Skye have taken the unprecedented step of issuing an open letter to the national media in a bid to balance sensationalist reporting about tourism pressures on the island.
The letter highlights some of the key tourism infrastructure improvements of the past year and categorically asserts that “Skye is well and truly open for business”.
Published today (2 August) in Skye’s local newspaper the West Highland Free Press, the letter includes scores of local businesses.
It was co-ordinated by constituency MSP Kate Forbes and destination management organisation SkyeConnect, in response to concerns that ‘silly season’ stories “could jeopardise the jobs, businesses and income of local people” that have taken years to build up.
Shirley Spear OBE, owner of the Three Chimneys and chair of SkyeConnect, said: “My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to dispel the myth that Skye is over-run with tourists and unwelcome here.
“Indeed, some damaging stories have appeared without any comment being sought locally from Skye. We have stressed continually, that Skye is not the only place in Scotland to have been challenged by the high visitor numbers experienced all over the country during 2017, urban and rural locations alike. For Skye to have been singled-out is erroneously skewed.
“This level of reporting is now affecting all the areas that Skye connects with locally and adds pressure to the issues we are working hard to improve for the long-term future of this beautiful island and its surrounding areas. “
Kate Forbes MSP added: “Tourists, and the hospitality industry they support, are vital to the economic future of communities on Skye. Many people have painstakingly built up small businesses to serve visitors over the summer months to tide them over the rest of the year.
“Nearly everybody on the island is indirectly linked to tourism in some kind of way - from the tradesmen and women who work for hospitality businesses to the teachers whose schools are sustained by pupils staying in the area because their families earn a living from tourism. That is why I would hate for any potential visitors to choose not to visit Skye because of sensationalist stories.
“Of course, any industry has got to be sustainable and we’ve been working hard over the last year to improve the infrastructure and services to support locals and visitors alike. We’ve got to keep up with rising demand - but the answer isn’t to scare away visitors, it is to improve the area.
“I hope this letter demonstrates the strength of feeling of many on the island and the importance placed on the tourism industry. It’s not an optional extra, it’s the bread and butter of many people’s livelihoods.”