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Nature / Spike in tourism interest after isles feature in Attenborough series

Orcas being filmed by the BBC team in the waters between Whalsay and North Nesting. Photo: Ryan Leith

NATURE tourism operators in Shetland have reported an upsurge in interest after the isles featured on a new David Attenborough BBC series.

Richard Shucksmith, who runs Shetland Photo Tours, said he has been “inundated” with enquiries about visiting Shetland.

Shetland featured in the first episode of the BBC One series Wild Isles earlier this month, with orcas the main focus.

Traffic to Shetland-related webpages on the VisitScotland website more than doubled to 684 views on the Sunday when the episode was aired.

VisitScotland’s Shetland development manager Steve Mathieson said the episode showcased the isles’ “unique and beautiful wildlife, landscapes and coastal scenery to audiences and potential visitors from around the UK”.

Shucksmith, who was involved in the production of the first episode, said he was “delighted with the huge interest the film has created”.

Meanwhile Hugh Harrop of Shetland Wildlife said he also experienced a surge in interest.

“I took over 40 brochure requests on the Sunday night alone and haven’t seen a spike in interest like this since the Simon King Shetland Diaries were on the BBC around ten years ago,” he said.


Anecdotally it is said that staff in VisitScotland’s Lerwick iCentre are asked at least once a day about orca sightings and tips and tricks for whale spotting.

Mathieson continued: “Our natural environment is one of the many things that make Shetland so special and we are lucky to have a number of local tourism businesses and guides who offer organised nature tours and wildlife-watching experiences that help visitors enjoy this stunning wildlife in a responsible way.

“Research shows that one in five international visitors have visited a film or TV location on holiday abroad and following the airing of the first episode of Wild Isles on March 12, web visits to pages relating to Shetland on our consumer website, www.visitscotland.com saw an increase.

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“For many communities, screen tourism has brought opportunities to grow the visitor economy with the additional spend from visitors supporting local shops, services and facilities.

“This can have a positive impact on visitor numbers and encourage a wider spread of visitors across the country throughout the year.”

Shetland has already enjoyed a tourism boost over the last number of years from the BBC crime drama of the same name.

Filming for Shetland’s eighth series is due to take place in the isles in the coming weeks.

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