The Shetland Tourism Association is building a clear overview of the local situation for the tourism sector this season and beyond. While most tourism businesses are still facing significant challenges the picture in Shetland is slightly more optimistic than had been expected. However, more responses from tourism businesses are needed to make the ongoing research project as representative as possible.

A health check for our sector

In the spring of this year the STA received funding from the VisitScotland Sector & Destination Operational & Market Readiness Fund to carry out a comprehensive, Shetland-wide, Tourism Services Assessment. This research project is currently ongoing, in comparison to other surveys concluded earlier in the season when it was difficult to predict what changes were still to come. A local company, Island Vista, was commissioned to complete the STA sector assessment by the autumn, delivering monthly progress reports over the summer months.

The STA survey involves an initial online survey which all tourism sector businesses in Shetland will receive via email; respondents are then contacted for a personalised follow-up call at a time that suits them. During the call they are offered the chance to voice business concerns and, when possible, the Island Vista team are also signposting business support that already exists.

The data gathered so far suggests that locally 98% of businesses have already re-opened with 51% operating as they had before, and 44% having to diversify products or services. The vast majority of tourism service providers feel that they will be able to survive, as long as they get the right support moving forwards. Extending measures such as VAT reduction and non-domestic rates relief would help enormously but other challenges many businesses are facing are due to critical staff shortages; continued restrictions and reduced capacity; block cancellations due to continued uncertainty on when international travel will resume in a viable form; and changes in booking patterns and the types of tourism services visitors are requesting.

Good local data is key

Jolene Garriock of Island Vista commented “We have been really heartened by the responses we have seen so far as part of the tourism services assessment. Almost 90% of businesses have said that even though their business has been severely impacted by the pandemic, they feel confident about the future of their business or that with the right support and guidance, they are sure that they can recover. While it has been very interesting doing the project so far, it has been a bit of a challenge. Many businesses are busy at the moment, so don’t have time to take part in the survey. That speaks for itself really. We look forward to hearing from more businesses over the next couple of months, which will provide us with a more accurate picture of how local tourism businesses are progressing since restarting.”

Emma Miller, Chair of the STA, said “Shetland businesses have shown remarkable resilience in the face of this pandemic and we are seeing that in the ongoing research being carried out. Earlier in the year there was deep concern about more businesses maybe not being able to survive, but thankfully that has not come to pass at the levels we might have expected. There is still a long way to go to recovery though and it’s vital that we get accurate local information to be able to lobby for the right ongoing support regarding VAT, rates, staffing, transport issues and other challenges facing our sector.”

The STA Tourism Services Assessment is open to all tourism businesses and information provided is strictly confidential. If you would like to take part and your business has not been contacted yet, please contact Island Vista at

Contact Details Phone: Email:

Join a community of business owners and operators who share your ambition to make your businesses more profitable, successful and innovative as we seek to maximise opportunities in the growing tourism sector in Shetland.