AIRLINE Loganair has stepped in to secure the future of Shetland Wool Week beyond this year.
The company’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles announced to the Shetland external transport forum on Wednesday afternoon that Loganair would financially underwrite the popular week-long event from 2018 onwards.
Shetland Wool Week is proceeding this year but, amid uncertainty over the future of tourism promotion as Shetland Islands Council re-tenders the Promote Shetland contract, there had been fears for its future.
Last month Shetland Amenity Trust (SAT) chairman Brian Gregson said he could not give any assurances for wool week’s continuation beyond 2017.
But, with Loganair seeking to take a more proactive role in supporting community initiatives as it prepares to part ways from Flybe in September, Hinkles made an “open-ended” commitment that Gregson immediately welcomed.
“From a funding point of view the SAT can’t make up a loss of funding from its reserves,” Hinkles said. “There was always a financial risk involved in putting on a major undertaking like that.
“We’ve stepped in to underwrite the finances of that.”
Last year around 400 people attended around 200 events as part of the ten-day celebration of knitwear and textiles.
Hinkles said he viewed it as a “very positive thing from Shetland visitors’ point of view”, adding wool week enjoyed a “very big social media following” which had seen “near riot” when it emerged that Promote Shetland’s contract was not being renewed a few weeks ago.
Hinkles said that, with Flybe preparing to compete on the main routes to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow from September, it was important to have tourism “firing on all four cylinders” and Loganair was “looking at supporting one or two further parts of what SAT does as well”.
He referred to initiatives such as the 60 North publication and online webcams “viewed by people far and wide”.
Gregson thanked Hinkles on behalf of SAT trustees, adding the amenity trust was “looking forward to the new partnership, and we hope it will be mutually beneficial”.
In a statement released after the meeting, Wool Week orgainser Misa Hay said: “Wool Week has become a festival of international significance.
“We now have a secure base on which to build it into an even bigger and more influential event. And one which in the future will bring bigger and bigger benefits to the Shetland community and economy.”