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TOURISM SUCCESS FOR ORKNEY
January, February and March are usually among the quietest months of the year for tourism businesses in the outlying North Isles community. But this year, the Westray Winter Warmers initiative encouraged people to take out-of-season mini breaks - with the offer of free ferry travel for visitors making two and three night stays on the island.
The special promotion was backed by the Orkney Marketing Scheme, which is funded by Orkney Enterprise, Orkney Islands Council and from Europe through the Highlands and Islands Special Programme. It was supported by the Westray and Papa Westray Tourist Association as a way to extend the visitor season.
Orkney Enterprise, delighted by the
success of the venture, will look closely at repeating the exercise next
year - and may extend the promotion to take in other isles communities.
In all, there were 114 bookings
from visitors with Westray's accommodation providers between January and
the end of March this year - 40 more than during the same three months in
Linda Hagan, from the Westray and
Papa Westray Tourist Association, said: "We're very pleased - I think the
whole community has been aware that there were visitors in the island
Malcolm Stout, owner of the Cleaton House Hotel, said: "The winter warmers promotion was a big success for us. "We've built up a winter trade over the past few years, with people travelling from Orkney Mainland to spend the weekend with us. Usually, we'd be half full at the weekends. But this year, from the middle of January to the end of March, we were booked solid every weekend and having to turn people away.
"We had a mix of new visitors and those who had stayed with us before. Many of the new guests said they'd been thinking of spending a weekend in Westray for some time - but his promotion gave them just the incentive they needed to book a stay in the island."
Other businesses benefited from the
extra visitors as well as the accommodation providers.
"January to March is usually a very quiet time when we would mainly see local people at the gallery," he said. "But we had visitors in most weekends - there was a significant increase in numbers this year compared to the same period during the previous two years.
"The short length of the tourist
season is the biggest problem we face. So it was good to see people
visiting the island during the winter - and to have extra sales at that
time of the year."