Passport to prosperity

Ferry services would have a key role in the development of a Scottish Islands Passport.
Ferry services would have a key role in the development of a Scottish Islands Passport.

A “Scottish Islands Passport” could support lifeline ferry and air services and develop tourism, a transport development group is suggesting.

The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) has tabled proposals to introduce the passport as a key marketing tool.

Among the most successful tourism initiatives are those which encourage the visitor to follow or complete a trail or visit a list of attractions. The West Highland Way, Munro Bagging and the NC500 have been cited as examples of existing attractions that have encouraged significant increases in visitors.

At a recent HITRANS meeting, partnership manager Neil MacRae told members that Ireland’s West Atlantic Way operated a passport system, offering users the chance to collect 188 stamps on its trail. It helped attract an estimated 1.3 million visitors last year.

Mr MacRae said: “A Scottish Islands Passport would seek to tap into a similar area, but has arguably even more potential. There is an opportunity for either a regional or national body to bring partners together and develop a marketing strategy that could have the potential to draw significant additional visitors to Scotland’s islands with all the economic benefits that would bring.

“The marketing opportunities around this concept are endless. Such an initiative should help support many of the most fragile lifeline services and island economies within the HITRANS area and there is also a potential role for HITRANS in coordinating and promoting integrated travel information.”

Councillor Aileen Morton, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “This initiative is a great way of encouraging more people to visit Argyll and Bute, whilst also supporting lifeline ferry and air services. We know from experience that trails like this are a successful way of boosting tourism and the opportunities they bring are endless.

“Approximately 17.1 per cent of Argyll and Bute’s population live on islands and we have 21 inhabited islands, more than any other local authority in Scotland. It is vital that we do everything we can to boost their economies.”