Outer Hebrides Tourism is calling on Scotland’s Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to intervene as the isles’ tourist industry suffers due to CalMac ‘juggling’ of ferry services.
Easy access for tourists to the Outer Hebrides is critical to the islands’ economy, says the group; but that those travelling to and from the Hebridean islands are suffering ‘yet again’ from CalMac’s juggling of ferries services due to ‘operational reasons’.
Outer Hebrides Tourism detail that in the few weeks since the start of the peak tourist season, capacity has been sacrificed at short notice from the ‘Uig triangle’ ferry route, with a vessel too small to even deliver an effective service for pre-booked passengers – and that the ‘Lord of the Isles’ ferry has been removed from the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route until further notice.
Outer Hebrides Tourism therefore has written to Humza Yousaf, Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, to highlight the issue.
Ian Fordham, Chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism, said: “Negative tourism impacts follow ferry capacity issues.
“The removal of ‘Lord of the Isles’ from the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route so early in the season has highlighted severe problems in the fleet and its capacity. We await the Minister’s response.”
Outer Hebrides Tourism hope to engage with Mr Yousaf on two key issues –
- 1. To seek his personal intervention for the urgent reinstatement of the ‘Lord of the Isles’ to its normal schedule on the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route.
- 2. To invite him as a matter of priority to a meeting in the Outer Hebrides to respond to questions and address growing concerns around:
a) CalMac’s ageing fleet and its inability to commit publicly to ongoing service reliability
b) General pressure on most Outer Hebrides ferry routes
c) Construction delays to two new ferries with nothing else in a build pipeline against a backdrop of traffic and visitor growth to the Outer Hebrides
With tourism a key growth sector in the islands’ economy, Outer Hebrides Tourism, in partnership with HIE, CnES and VisitScotland, is proactively engaged in work to shape the Outer Hebrides as a distinctive world-class visitor destination.
There are more than 218,000 visitors a year and thousands of local businesses depend on this visitor economy.
Almost 90% of visitors are from the UK, and so are very media aware of any travel constraints to their chosen holiday destination – and with 85% of visitors travelling to the islands by ferry, it underlines the critical role that ferry services play to the Outer Hebrides economy.
Outer Hebrides Tourism, along with partners, are working to a target of the generation of £74million from tourism for the islands economy by 2020; and therefore are also extremely concerned over the recent recurrent warnings from CalMac that their vessels are too old to guarantee service reliability.
The group seek to ask what steps are being taken to provide, at absolute minimum, a fit-for-purpose ferry service for the future to the Outer Hebrides.