How will the growth of tourism today affect the islands and their communities tomorrow?

Tourism in rural Scotland is vital for the survival of communities. Over the last decade and particularly post-pandemic there have been growing trends in responsible tourism, and the travellers’ desire for authentic experiences. 

Figures from a 2022 Sustainable Travel Report by suggested 57% of UK travellers planned to prioritise sustainable travel that year, an increase of 27% on 2021.  

On the subject of conscious travel choices 63% of travellers want to experience the local culture, and a further 55% aim to leave the places they visit in a better condition than when they arrived. Encouraging stats. 

Tourism has the power to change places and the lives of its people – for better or worse. Left unchecked tourism growth can harm the places that we love. 

Rather than prioritising exponential visitor growth, we must consider the bigger picture if our islands are to thrive. This means thinking about tourism’s long-term environmental and human impacts. Put simply, how will the development of tourism today affect the health of the islands and their communities tomorrow?


Developing the digital skills of island communities towards a more secure future 

The shut down of tourism in 2020 was a stark wake-up call for many island businesses and communities. Without tourists or an online presence they had no means of generating alternative income.  

With a digital presence we’re able to drive new business opportunities and strengthen the success of island economies.  We can help communities and businesses prepare for the “what-ifs” and mitigate adverse impacts. To strengthen their ability and response to natural disasters, economic downturns, and other unforeseen events. An absolute must in securing our future, as the whole world now exists online.  

The profit from your isleHoliday booking is helping us drive the change.  We are creating digital jobs and delivering digital training to island entrepreneurs and community groups who could not otherwise afford to access it. 

Join us in our quest towards responsible tourism, a force for good.


The impact of Short Term Lets on island communities

Another major challenge faced by rural island communities nowadays is the lack of affordable housing, making it difficult to retain tourism talent, or to attract teachers and emergency service workers required for societal needs.  

The increase of ‘Short Term Let’ properties has resulted in a decrease of available residential properties. Though the rental income from Short Term Lets is valuable to property owners, it’s at the detriment of the local communities where housing is at a premium. 

In 2021 research conducted in Tiree (where IsleHoliday is based) concluded that 46% of properties were not primary residences. Of those, 29% were short term lets owned by people who live off-island, and 5% were short term lets owned by island residents. The remainder were private holiday homes.

When you consider only 54% of properties on Tiree are permanent residences, it’s quite an astounding figure. This trend is mirrored in other islands, notably Skye, Mull and Harris.

So, whilst tourism is one of the key pillars of Highland and Island economies, market values and the lack of properties available to community residents is actively contributing to depopulation. If this trend continues, we will undermine our tourism economy. 

In 2022 reports from UK Hospitality Scotland confirmed that 84% of businesses were suffering from a lack of front-of-house staff including bar, reception and waiting staff. This issue is particularly visible in smaller communities, and impacts hugely on the capacity of local businesses to harness the full potential of the holiday season.

At isleHoliday we are shining a light on the issues surrounding rural housing. Though we cannot single handedly fix the problem we are using our voice to talk about the issue and raise awareness.


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