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

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


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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.

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 

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.