The Shetland Tourism Association Blog is the place where we will be reporting what we as a group are doing, industry news, issues affecting the industry and investigating opportunities.

If there is a blog article you would like to see or even to submit please contact the STA Secretary on


Its that time of year again for the Shetland Tourism Associations AGM.

The AGM will be held in Room B4 at the Shetland College (Celia Smith has very kindly offered to wait at the reception to provide directions to the room)

Included in our agenda will be an update of VisitScotland's activity over the past year and activities which will be coming up in the future.

Also Celia Smith will be providing a free taster session of the World Host Customer Service training programme which is being made available through Shetland College/UHI's Hospitality Department.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Inter-Island Transport Study

Shetland Islands Council are currently undertaking a study into issues residents have in using the Inter-Island Transport links. They will be holding a series of meetings throughout Shetland, these will be at:

  • Monday 29 August - Whalsay, Symbister Hall, 4pm - 8pm
  • Tuesday 30 August - Bressay Hall, 4pm - 8pm
  • Wednesday 31 August - Foula School, 10am – 1pm; then Fair Isle Hall, 5pm - 8pm
  • Thursday 1 September - Mid Yell Hall, 4pm - 8pm
  • Friday 2 September - Skerries Hall, 10.30am – 3pm

You can view the results of consultation and feasability for inter-island transport links and complete an online survey giving you the opportunity to feedback directly to the SIC on this information at

North Isles Ferry Contract

With the North Isles Ferry Service contract due for renewal Peter Brett Associates are surveying businesses & individuals requesting information which will help in process of writing a new contract for this service.

We request as many people as possible complete this survey. There is a survey for businesses and also one for individuals, please share this link with your friends and family also as the more feedback given the more input we have to the new contract.


Business Survey

Individuals Survey

Up Helly Aa What's On

Its that time of year again!

This year I have tried to put everything into a poster format so that it is simple to print out for your guests & customers.

The what's on is 6 pages but it includes everything from visitor attractions which are open, exhibitions that are on right through to trips and tours available.

Also available are posters for events and tours happening - some might be heavy on the ink though so you can choose what you would like to print out!

There is also the VisitScotland Up Helly Aa guide leaflet which explains what is going on and timing for Up Helly Aa day for visitors.

Finally as per usual the only bus operating on Wednesday 27th will be the Lerwick to Sumburgh Airport Route (no 6) which will have a restricted service with departures at:

Lerwick to Sumburgh departures – 0547, 0900, 1200, 1330, 1710
Sumburgh to Lerwick departures – 0737, 1020, 1320, 1700, 2000


Continue reading


The STA will hold their AGM on the 17th of November in the Council Chambers at Lerwick Town Hall.

The meeting will begin at 6:30pm, our agenda will be:

Tea, Coffee & Biscuits on arrival

  1. Please sign the attendance sheet.
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Approve Minutes of 2014 AGM
  4. Matters Arising
  5. Chairman’s Report
  6. Treasurer’s Report
  7. Election of Executive Committee Members and Office Bearers
  8. Angela Hunt – Sumburgh Lighthouse
  9. Kathy Coull – The Shetland Tourism Industry Survey
  10. A.O.B.

Highlands & Islands Enterprise Worker Accommodation Report

As you may have recently seen in the Shetland media Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE) have just released a report investigating the demand for worker accommodation in Shetland.

The report looks into a range of possibilities for future developments in Shetland as well as emphisising the requirement of further housing development in Shetland to be able to attract further investment in to Shetland.

AB Associates who conducted much of the research for this report met with the STA earlier this year to explain the work they were undertaking. At this time they highlighted that the area of focus was mainly housing though short-term accommodation had also been surveyed and is taken into account.

From the executive summary we see that one of the key messages to be taken from the report is:

"The Big Issue is the availability and cost of private housing to rent or buy."

Unfortunately some media headlines may have not made it terribly clear that this is the main focus of the report so there is a little risk that once again the "Shetland is full" myth may arise again. Rachel Hunter of HIE appeared on Radio Shetland to further explain the findings that are identified in this report and later in the same programme Steve Mathieson of VisitScotland and Andy Steven of Promote Shetland appeared on public platform and continued to deliver the message that visitor accommodation is still available in Shetland and there is no issue of availability in Shetland on the whole. If you missed this episode of Radio Shetland you can catch up with the show here

For the tourism industry the main feature of this report is highlighting the development potential in Shetland gaining further investment. This research also supports the key message that entry & exit transport links for Shetland requires to increase in capacity and provide affordable options.

You can download and view the Executive Summary and Full report on the Highlands & Islands Enterprise website here


New round of LEADER Funding



The LEADER fund which is part of an EU initiative and forms part of the Scottish Government's Scottish Rural Development Programme is now open for applications for their 2014 - 2020 round of funding.

LEADER's objective is to provide opportunities for individuals, businesses & communities to come together to support rural development and provide long term benefits for local areas. There is particular emphisis on projects which are both innovative and and show a bottom up strategic structure.

A bottom up strategy refers to the use of collective experience and expertise which provides room for creative thinking to produce innovative approches to business and development. Using a bottom up strategy has the benefit of creating a sense of group ownership which is particularly beneficial for community enterprises.

Tourism related projects which have recieved LEADER funding before are:

South Nesting Community Hall - for the development of campervan & caravan facilities.

Bridge End Outdoor Centre - for developing greater accessability to water based activites and the development of a camping & caravaning site.

Fetlar Community Development - for the provision of a community electric bus creating opertunity for greater transport and dial-a-ride services within the island.

Belmont House - for furnishing and equipment to make Belmont House a high quality self-catering accommodation with options for venue hire and as a visitor attraction as well as development of a promotional website.

To find out more about the LEADER fund you can read a copy of their executive summery shetland-leader-2014-2020-introduction.pdf or visit their website

Icelandair announce flights to Aberdeen

Icelandair has recently announced that they will begin flights from Keflavik in Iceland to Aberdeen 4 days a week from the 9th of March 2016. Icelandair have operated flights to Glasgow for several years now but never have they come so close to Shetland.

Since the Norröna stopped calling in to Lerwick we have had little reason to look towards the Icelandic market. But in recent years there has been a little more collaboration with the Iclenader's, there have been various art projects which have seen Shetlander's & Icelander's working together. When Shetland host the North Atlantic Native Sheep Conference in 2013 there was a delegation of Icelander's who attended and when Iceland hosted the conference last year a delegation of Shetlander's took up the opportunity to visit Iceland. This November will see the Shetland's first Crime Writting Festival "Shetland Noir" which is being held in partnership with the "Iceland Noir" festival, so there is perhaps more happening between Shetland and Iceland as you may think.

Iceland has also become a gateway for American travellers and this route could provide easier access to Shetland for visitors for the US & Canada.

For anyone following the routes of the Vikings it will also be easier than ever now to combine flights from Iceland to Scotland, boat or flight to Orkney & Shetland and flights to Norway.

Or for the geologist it would be possible to visit the ancient remains of a volcano here in Shetland, stop along one of the greatest oil industry cities in the world and then visit an active volcano in Iceland.

So for all of you with friends in Iceland lets get the word of mouth going that Shetland just got a step closer.

Shetland on Britain's Best Back Gardens

Shetland will be appearing on a new short series by Alan Titchmarsh called Britain's Best Back Garden's on ITV on January 6th 2015 at 8pm.

Scotland's Gardens contacted Mary Leask at VisitScotland who co-ordinates the Scotland's Gardens Scheme in Shetland in the spring and she recommended Rosa Steppanova's Lea Gardens in Tresta as an ideal location for this show. The show focuses on the difficult plots where people have created beautiful gardens and Mary's suggestion of Lea Gardens was backed up by Scotland's Gardens Scheme who also suggested this garden to the producers as an excellent location for filming.

The film crews arrived in the summer of 2014 and did some very secretive filming with Rosa at Lea Gardens. VisitScotland spoke with Rosa earlier today when news was released that Shetland would be featuring on the show and though very honoured to have her garden featured and proclaimed one of Britain's best gardens she felt this was really a celebration of all Shetland gardens, she had this to say:

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped to make the garden what it is today.

"When I arrived in Shetland, it was the place where nothing could grow because of the harsh climate. Nothing could be further from the truth, as three decades later wonderful gardens have sprung up everywhere and I'm sure some of them are as deserving of this accolade as Lea Gardens, if not more so.

"The inclusion of a Shetland garden on this list is important because it not only puts Lea Gardens, but Shetland horticulture as
a whole on the national map, and with it the efforts and achievement of all Shetland gardeners. That surely is cause for celebration."

 Scotland's Gardens Scheme is a charity organisation which encourages keen gardeners to open their own gardens to the public taking a small fee which goes towards charity. Last year 10 gardens in Shetland from Scatness to Mid Yell and Scalloway to Sandness took part in the scheme offering locals and visitors the opportunity to see the beautiful gardens which can be created in our difficult gardening environment. Shetland's gardens have been so loved by Scotland's Gardens Scheme that last year they organised a bus tour to Shetland to visit the gardens and are hoping to be able to do this again in the future. To find out more about the scheme and gardens you can visit please see their webpage 
To find out more about Lea Gardens visit Rosa's blog at 

The Bergen Connection

BeechAs you have probably heard Shetland will soon have a new air connection to Norway starting on the 24th of November 2014. Operators Bergen Air Transport will be offering 12 seats on their Beechcraft King Air B200 flight which will also be providing a cargo service flying on Thursday's & Monday's so perfect for weekend get-aways.

North Sea Cycle RouteAs well as the year round service providing us an excellent opportuintiy to pick up a increased number of visitors from our neighbour the cargo options of this flight re-opens the opportunites available to Shetland in exploiting the North Sea Cycle Route which since the end of the sea link with Bergen has been increasingly difficult as there is no guarentee with Flybe/ Loganair that your bike would be able to travel with you.

Along with the news that Flybe/Loganair are to start running their flights slightly longer to capture the travellers who wish to go between Norway & Shetland for Norwegian Constitution Day this provides us with an excellent opportunity to increase our focus on the opportunities available in the Scandinavian Market.

If there are any businesses who are particularly keen to capitalise on these new links there is a consumer travel fair being held in Bergen on the 17th & 18th of January, for more information check out Reiselivsmessen


Grubs Up: 2015 Year of Food & Drink

As the year that "ScotlandPony Welcomes the World" begins to come to a close now that all of the major events have finished, the Scottish Government in partnership with EventScotland & VisitScotland will return to the "Year of..." marketing & development campaigns.

2015 will be the Year of Food & Drink and will see Scotland Food & Drink joining the partnership to place a spotlight on the nations industry. VisitScotland and EventScotland will of course be focusing on the tourism opportunities and they will be celebrating food & drink as part of Scottish cultural identity and heritage in promoting Scotland as a holiday destination. This is not without good reason, research has shown that visitors to Scotland want to try local food and two-thirds of visitors have identified quality food as an important factor in deciding where they want to holiday.

VisitScotland have recently released their Year of Food & Drink toolkit, which you can find here or by clicking on the banner below, this provides a range of information about what the Year of Food & Drink is about, research, has logos and digital banners available for use as well as ideas for monthly food themes and information about local suppliers.

As well as promoting Scotland through Food & Drink there is also a special growth fund specifically aimed at development in this area available.

Demand is likely to be high on the applications to this fund so act fast on this, you can find out more about this special Growth Fund here.

English food and drink leaderboard fresh 728 x 90


What is Expo?

"Expo" is frequently talked about at STA meetings and investing in a Shetland stand at the show is one of the group's main out-goings each year. 

But some members might still be unsure what exactly Expo is, what happens there, why the STA are investing in it and what benefit do members see from it. So with this year's Expo just around the corner on the 2nd & 3rd of April let's try and answer some of those questions. 

What is Expo

The VisitScotland Expo - to give its proper name - is Scotland's largest and most important business to business trade fair for the tourism industry. It will be attended by 270 businesses from around Scotland promoting their tourism product to buyers representing tour operators, travel agents, travel media and incoming agents (businesses that prepare tour itineraries for international operators). The buyers that are attending have mainly been targeted because they have existing Scottish products available or potential new buyers that have shown an interest in developing a Scottish product. 

All sounds terribly dry! But it is important that Shetland doesn't miss the exposure which is gained through having a stand at this show. With 350 buyers from UK companies and 470 from international markets there is huge potential for Shetland to sell itself. 


Design image of how the stand will look.

What happens at Expo

This year's stand is a joint venture between the STA, Promote Shetland, VisitShetland, VisitOrkney, the Orkney Tourism Group, Northlink Ferries and Pentland Ferries. These stands have always been grouped close together at previous shows and so it was decided that it would be more cost effective and have a greater impact to have a combined stand, effectively creating a North Isles destination centre. 

The stand of course is visually appealing to attract passers-by but the core activity of the show is pre-booked appointments. Potential buyers who have a definite interest in developing a Shetland product come looking for facts, what attractions are there for their customers, what facilities are available, what duration should a tour be, what unique selling points can they offer their customers. 

But who are these buyers? With over 60 pre-booked meetings already the Shetland representatives will be meeting buyers with a broad range of interests. There will be some of the larger scale tour operators who in recent years have been reshaping their model to fit better with the way that people want to travel now. But far and away the main potential buyers are the niche market tours and travel agents, tours specialising in horticulture, farming, textiles and photography to name a few. Travel agents from developing markets such as China, India & Russia where a place like Shetland could be classed as an exotic destination (exotic as in striking and different rather than hot and lush - in case you thought I had really lost it!) Most importantly though are the developing markets where we already have strength, Canada & the USA. Classed as developing because of the improved direct airlinks that have been developed between North America & Scotland, Shetland has of course been basking in the limelight of 3 notable ponies and a Viking invasion which has given us multiple mentions on television & a storm of social media interest. 

Why the STA invests

In Shetland we are quite accustomed to planning our holidays and travel ourselves using the internet and there is no question that the internet is now the primary source of holiday planning. But travel agents and tour operators still play an important role and are reshaping themselves to better suit todays traveller. The key word here is niche and Shetland ticks a lot of boxes for the niche markets! 

Long haul travellers are more likely to use travel agents, particularly visitors from the USA & Australia. But something that all visitors to Shetland have in common is they are looking to have a unique experience, they want to feel they understand and are engaging with the local culture and are being entrusted with the secrets of the best places to visit and sights to be seen. Tour operators and agents can create this kind of experience for their customers based on the contacts and information they gain at Expo. Once the customer is here it is then our job to reveal that there is so much more to see and turn them into a repeat customer. 

As council, government and EU funding becomes less and less accessible it is important for the industry to maintain the presence of Shetland at Expo or we risk losing all of these potential customers to other regions of Scotland. It is for this reason that the STA fell that Expo is the best possible use of funds to feed back into the tourism industry in Shetland. 

What benefit is there for members

Well here things do get a bit intangible, it would be lovely to be able to say X number of visitors were generated, X bus tour stopped at all these locations or X agent has booked rooms at all these providers thanks to Expo. It isn't that simple to quantify though as the return on this investment must be looked at over a long time scale. A tour operator that visits the stand this year might not be able to schedule a tour in until 2016 and an agent who might be sending customers to Shetland for years to come is under no obligation to report back. 

The way in which Expo operates with the pre-booked meetings and targeted buyers does offer us some insight into the success of the show though. We know the Shetland stand will have around 60 - 100+ pre-booked meetings, statistics for the whole show indicate that 81% of the international buyers will feature a place they visited in future programmes, 90% of UK and 88% of international buyers intend to add new suppliers to their current programmes and 81% of exhibitors conduct business with other stand holders. 

There has also been such significant advanced interest from buyers this year that VisitScotland is providing a familiarisation trip for 10 buyers to Shetland directly following Expo, these buyers will be receiving a very packed 3 day tour with an STA member to better understand the products they will be selling to their customers. 

So we can't say what as an individual member you will benefit from our investment, but the return on the investment to the tourism industry and Shetland's economy will be felt for years to come through new business generation and repeat visits which are very likely to touch on every member business at some point in the future. 

To find out more about all the businesses attending VisitScotland Expo this year visit 

New Website for the STA

At long last it is here! 

We've spoken many times about the need for a website which offers a more interactive experience for the users, up to date information and a repository of information for members. 

It's nothing fancy but it does offer all of us the desired elements and best of all it is nice and easy for us to work with so requires no in-depth IT skills! 

You will have to bear with us a moment as we populate it with information, but we soon be using this as our main source for distributing information.