Skyeconnect, the new designation management organisation for the tourism and visitor industry in Skye and Lochalsh, was formally launched at a major event in the Aros centre in Portree today (Saturday March 18th)

Shirley Spear, who chairs skyeconnect, announced the official start of the new organisation and the fact that support has been won from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to appoint a project officer.

The auditorium at Aros was packed for the launch with people from tourism-related businesses in Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh.

Shirley Spear said the appointment of a project officer would make it possible for the organisation to work all-year round in a professional manner. She emphasised the need for everyone to work collaboratively, communicating with one another, to improve the way Skye and the surrounding areas can serve their many visitors. 

She pointed out that the island had always been overwhelmed by business at the peaks - like games week in August. What was needed now was the development of all-year-round business.  This was vital for the development of all local businesses and for the local economy and would also bring many social benefits, too.  She said that at present, the tourism industry - along with food and drink - was right at the top of the Scottish Government's agenda - along with the food and drink sector - and she said there had been no other time since she started in business 32 years ago, that she could have stated that was the case. 

Attending a national conference for destination organisations recently, representing skyeconnect, Shirley Spear said that from meeting others involved in the same business in different areas showed how much there was to do - other areas across Scotland were "far ahead of us."  Skyeconnect had to be formally constituted as a membership organisation in order to access funding and deal with other organisations.  

skyeconnect is a member of Scottish Tourism Alliance which has strong links with other major organisations in Scotland and across the UK.  And the meeting was addressed by Marc Crothall, who is chief executive officer of the Scottish Tourism Alliance. He attended a Skye tourism meeting at Skeabost Hotel almost exactly a year ago, which formed the basis of the work to create the new local organisation. The STA has existed for five years now, with 275 member organisations which they believe represent about 75 per cent of the 20,000 tourism businesses across the country. It was absolutely key that businesses fed through their problems via skyeconnect to the Scottish Government.  Over the proposed business rates, a concerted campaign had been able to succeed in reducing the proposed increases.  The STA had the size to be credible in its dealings with both the Scottish and UK governments.  He spoke of the resilience of the industry - and it faces new challenges, particularly with the approach of Brexit.  But the keywords moving ahead were "connection and collaboration," working together and with the agencies and the local authorities.  

The event was sponsored by NFU Mutual.