The SkyeConnect launch proved a big success but of all the topics covered on the day it was the decision not to support a local Tourist Tax that proved the most controversial.
And, since the conclusion of the day to herald the arrival of an organisation dedicated to encouraging the growth and development of tourism and tourism businesses in Skye the debate has rumbled on.
Within hours of coverage by The Skye Times there were several comments made via social media.
Ben Wear said: "I thought part of the justification for a tourism tax was to enable improved parking, toilets and such facilities?"
While Elgar Finlay commented: "Exactly!! The aim is for tourism (and residents) to benefit in a sustainable manor...Folk locally I think would prefer to see money from the visitors and those profiting from them being reinvested in the Islands infrastructure making life better for all.
"At least we now have a locally based organisation who can be mandated to determine and take the issues forward... (I hope). If it is simply just a front for marketing the Island it may not deliver the infrastructure needed to cope."
Now another local Skye resident with years of experience in the tourism related field, Ian McKay, has come up with an alternative view.
Ian formerly ran a London based design and advertising business whose client base was principally tour companies (package, bespoke and holiday rental) and tourist destinations selling to European markets, alongside a number of mixed size corporations.
He said: "First off, congratulations to Anne Gracie, Shirley Spear, Rob Ware and the number of un-named others for pulling the Skye Connect initiative together – this is a bold attempt to rekindle a local tourism lobby group. I hope it manages to succeed to be of benefit.
"As a forum for exchanging ideas between similarly vested interest parties it is to be commended, however, some aspects left this attendee with little appetite for the tea and sandwiches afterwards.
"It was disappointing that within the presentations, only those from Minginish and Staffin communities offered possible solutions to the biggest tourism problems on the island – transport, parking and loos. Their inclusion in the event was the most interesting aspect and again highlighted how much tourist businesses and Highland Council continue to lean upon volunteer organisations to drive solutions to issues they seem to want to keep at arms length for fear it might cost them.
"Generally, the presentations at the Skye Connect launch were made by an industry-reliant or financially interested party wanting to find more ways to milk the cash cow while congratulating themselves collectively. The Scottish tourist industry as a whole (and thereby indirectly the Scottish Government) rely upon the numbers Skye pumps into their graphs, bolstering overall figures and helping embellish what they are achieving and showing they are apparently worthy of their job title and package – it is time for that industry to put its hand in its collective pocket and help the communities instead of expecting them to push solutions forward – if not nationally then locally at least.
"Perhaps singling out accommodation alone for a ‘bedroom tax’ is unfair and all our tourist businesses should contribute, but to state, as both Shirley and Marc Crothall (Scottish Tourist Industry Alliance) do, that a contribution is wholly unwarranted, unacceptable and unfair because UK tourism as a whole is one hundred and forty-somethingth out of one hundred and forty-something for global cost-competetiveness does nothing to help solve Skye’s very local issues and merely restates an industry spin-doctored national mantra.
"Skye is not under cost-pressure because of a lack of tourists, a little extra on room or activity charges is not going to sink the destination – transport difficulties in its many forms will. Tourist reliant businesses are popping up weekly because they agree with Ms Spear, ‘Skye is a honey-pot destination’, and all know there is money to be made but there seems to be a collective reluctance to want to feed any profits back into solving elements they moan most about and expect others to sort – while saying that, I fully acknowledge that jobs are created and maintained; but it could be even better.
"The transport infrastructure on the island is universally agreed to be woeful. Why is it that only limited numbers of locals and tourists use the buses? Because the bus timetables do not make their practical use possible. The council support a bare, minimal service because it has to get pupils to and from school, it should do more. If more buses were available, they would get used – if that bus service was a hop-on hop-off service, underpinned by servicing tourists in collaboration with a tourist-interested body and perhaps a tour bus company, it could benefit all.
"With a park and ride scheme in place, fewer cars would be clogging up the roads and sites generally, roads would be in better condition, visitors could see more of what they come to see and meet more locals while using the omnibus!
"Does Skye really need a regular air service – is it a vanity project? As nice as that luxury might be it only caters to small numbers and arguably only benefits those with expensive rooms to sell – the airport idea does not take cars off the roads and requires generous parking facilities for hire cars and passengers. Could the Ashaig airstrip be better used as a car and turbine parts parking space and become one of a number of hubs served by a regular park and ride bus service usable by all? Fanciful to some, I know!
"But, the marketing of such a scheme has already begun with the now publicly stated recommendation that operators and hosts alike suggest strongly to visitors that Skye is a difficult place to travel around by car and that arriving by Calmac car ferry is a lottery. So, 'Relax and be a passenger during your visit by riding with Skye Connect and leave refreshed rather than frustrated'. Even through the winter tour bus businesses run and, I guess, therfore profit – perhaps locals could fill some empty seats? Start talking about the possibilities.
"How would it all work? Businesses (including the Highland Council, HIE, ScotGov, etc.) contribute to be a member of Skye Connect based upon their size, in return they have an tour industry lobbying voice and forum, overseen by elected Trustees, and are recognised as a contributor to the initiative by a logo stating such. Local communities benefit via the Skye Connect transport network (in any of its guises) and can choose to either support or avoid those that do not contribute.
"With ambition, Skye Connect could create an island-wide, community and tourist benefit with an ecological ethos – the name suits and the logo already looks like it belongs on hybrid-powered buses."