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Transport / Campaigns will promote isles as a ‘staycation’ destination when the time is right

PROMOTIONAL campaigns plugging Shetland as a “staycation” destination when restrictions allow are in the pipeline in a bid to boost the tourism sector.

Loganair’s chief commercial officer Kay Ryan told a meeting of Shetland’s external transport forum on Thursday that the airline was working with Promote Shetland on a campaign.

The meeting also heard that VisitScotland has its own campaign in the works.

Ryan told the meeting that passenger numbers on flights to and from Shetland remain “very, very low” while travel is restricted to essential purposes only.

She said the airline is planning a phased approach to resuming flights to cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh.

At the moment Edinburgh flights are scheduled to resume around the start of April and Glasgow journeys are in line to come back in May.

However, with future travel restrictions to islands from 26 April a possibility raised by first minister Nicola Sturgeon this week, it remains unclear when visitors could travel north again.

Mathieson asked Ryan how future bookings looked for Loganair flights to and from Sumburgh, and although different parts of the country behave differently there is a “consistent trend”, she said.

Ryan said there has been a slight “Boris bounce” for the regional airline, which flies across the UK, after the UK Government mapped out its route out of lockdown.

There has also been a slight positive impact from first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s similar announcement on Tuesday.

“We have seen a slight strengthening, but it’s very, very small,” Ryan said.

She said Loganair has been working on a campaign to promote Shetland as a “fantastic staycation destination when it’s appropriate”.

“We absolutely have plans to encourage visitors to the island when we can.”

Mathieson said: “We will need all the help we can get to encourage visitors”.

NorthLink Ferries managing director Stuart Garrett, meanwhile, said forward bookings on the boat are similarly down compare to usual.

“Our figures show that we are running 63 per cent down on forward bookings on what would have been a normal year,” he said.

Garrett also said that NorthLink will advertise on STV during May and August to “remind our target audience that the Northern Isles are a very attractive proposition when the time is right”.