Simple steps to a busier Bute

BUTE will see “a significant increase” in the number of visitors to the island next year with the adoption of a few simple ideas, according to the new chairman of the island’s marketing group.

Mr McGhee, who was appointed as the chairman of VisitBute on August 9, told local business owners this week about his ideas for turning around the slow but steady decline in the number of people visiting Bute since the island’s ‘doon the watter’ heyday.

He spoke of creating “a coherent brand” for the island which would appeal to visitors, with which residents could feel a sense of ownership, and which other organisations would want to buy into.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, attended by more than 70 people, Mr McGhee gave the results of a study carried out last year by students at Glasgow Caledonian University into tourism on Bute, in which 52 out of 114 people surveyed knew nothing about Bute because it was not advertised, and 18 had never even heard of the island – and in which two-thirds of those asked said they didn’t even know how to get to Bute.

“We need a coherent tourism offer for the island,” Mr McGhee said.

“That’s a really difficult question for Bute, and one for which I think we need to get experts in. We want to be saying it’s wild, unspoilt, beautiful and remote, and yet there’s a ferry every 45 minutes, fantastic architecture, archaeology and so on.

“Other areas of Scotland have thought really carefully about how they should go about projecting their image.

“Nothing I will say tonight is new. They are all things that other places have been doing. But these are the simple things we need to be doing to try to promote the island.”

Other ideas include the production of a new brochure for the island, paid for entirely through advertising, and the employment of a full-time marketing manager to sell the many beauties of Bute.

Applications for funding to get the project off the ground are to be made to VisitScotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, though around £30,000 – one quarter of the total project costs – has to be raised locally through membership fees.

The new-look VisitBute project follows the recent publication of a draft development plan for Bute by the island’s local development officer, Ciara Wilson, which featured a new tourism strategy as one of its first priorities.

Miss Wilson told Tuesday’s meeting: “It’s essential that as many businesses get on board as possible, so this project can get off the ground.

“Joining VisitBute will have long term financial benefits, but is also the chance to be part of something really significant for the island.

“I think VisitBute is the start of something special. The more we pull together on this, the greater our chance of success will be.”