Community / Hosting Tall Ships ‘money well spent’, council says

Here is a chance to relive some the highlights of last week’s Tall Ships Races in this 10-minute long video provided by Millgaet Media

THE ECONOMIC boost to the Shetland from the Tall Ships is likely to be “well above” that experienced when the Lerwick event was last held in 2011.

That is the view of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) economic development manager Tommy Coutts.

The council was the main funder for the 2023 event, putting in more than £1 million which was used by organisers Shetland Tall Ships Ltd to put on the four day event.

This came on top of sponsorship support from businesses, and organisations like Lerwick Port Authority and EventScotland.

The SIC’s contribution was taken from an allocation of net revenues from Crown Estate assets around Shetland’s shoreline which is given to the council every year.


This income usually goes towards the Coastal Communities fund, which the council administers.

Coutts said the council’s main involvement was to monitor the progress and ensure the “money flowed properly to the Tall Ships company for the organisation and the setting up of the event”.

There were a number of economic drivers behind the business case for funding the Tall Ships, including generating positive media coverage of Shetland, promoting the isles as a destination with international appeal and creating economic benefits.

Coutts said there are also long-term benefits such as developing management skills and infrastructure, which could support future events.

A socio-economic study from the last Tall Ships in 2011 suggested there was around £4 million in benefits to Shetland, both through additional spend and also through national and international media coverage.

“I suspect this time round it will be well above that, although I would not pre-empt any report that comes,” Coutts said.

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It is thought an average of around 10,000 people day visited the event sites, which not only resulted in customer spending on the stalls and catering vans, but for businesses as a whole – from hotels to shops and bars.

Crews and visitors experienced four amazing days in Shetland. Photo: John Waters

Another factor is that it was a major event held not too long after the Covid restrictions which had put a roadblock on large social gatherings.

When councillors decided to back a Tall Ships bid, back in 2019, they obviously did not know Covid was on the horizon.

“So in that context I think this Tall Ships event has played a role we never thought it would, in that it’s been that last sweeping away of the vestiges of Covid,” Coutts said.


He added that the event has “absolutely increased” confidence with the community in the recovery from Covid.

Coutts also said the investment from the SIC and sponsors has “definitely been money well spent”.

“I think that the efforts of the Shetland Tall Ships company in organising the event in that truncated timescale they had, has been absolutely extraordinary,” he added.

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