Holiday makers who travel independently – not part of an organised group – make up a relatively small percentage of Shetland’s visitors.
However, it’s vital that they are not overlooked. These visitors stay longer than groups and use a wider range of tourism services than most other types of visitor. More independent travellers will result in a sharp increase in local spending.
Currently, independent travellers can book all the separate elements of their holiday themselves, or they can book a package holiday through a tour operator. Most package holidays on offer in Shetland have rigid itineraries and pricing or only offer accommodation plus travel.
Tourism businesses in Shetland could increase individual traveller visits by linking up to provide packages and easy access to a range of holiday activities.
Knowing the market
Travellers who organise their own holiday are looking for more choice and lower costs.
Travellers who book a package with a tour operator prefer to save time and spend more on a pre-prepared option.
The majority of Shetland visitors are on their first visit, so local information is helpful.
Nearly half of visitors are over 55, many retired.
Two thirds have a high income, with capacity for significant spending.
Although 65 per cent of visitors use the internet to research their trip, less than 10 per cent book on the internet – either personal contact is preferred or web booking could be improved.
Opportunities for businesses
Independent travellers prefer tailor-made holidays, yet such holidays in Shetland are few and poorly advertised. This market can grow.
Many Shetland services don’t feature in existing packages. Collaborating to package more of what the island has to offer provides an authentic and straightforward option for customers.
Physical and mental well-being are important to visitors so businesses should promote the peaceful Shetland location and friendly people.
Travellers booking their own trip are influenced by word-of-mouth, so promotions such as ‘refer-a-friend’ could be effective.
Only a third of visitors stay for up to a week; offering attractive full week packages may encourage longer stays.
Things you should know
Learning from successful providers, such as Shetland Wildlife holidays and Seabirds and Seals boat tours, will help businesses boost Shetland’s reputation.
The VisitShetland website is the most popular site for trip research so has access to a high number of potential customers.
If you remember one thing
Shetland has a lot to offer visitors, but it has even more potential. The secret to attracting more independent travellers is to refine current offerings and link them into new exciting packages.
Source - ‘The FIT Market in Shetland’ by Kathleen Hogarth (consultant), Independent Health, for HIE Shetland, September 2007