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Almost a third (30%) of visitors to Scilly in 2015 were new to the islands and of these new visitors, 45% came for a short break of between 2 and 4 days. This is an increase of 4% in first time visitors compared with 2014. Once again, the vast majority of those visiting Scilly in 2015 were inspired to come by the scenery (94%) and/or peace and quiet (87%). 70% were inspired by our beaches and 58% our wildlife.

These figures are taken from the results of the official Isles of Scilly Visitor Survey conducted by the Islands’ Partnership in 2015. The survey, which captured responses from more than 2,000 visitors to the islands throughout the year is the most comprehensive ever and builds on previous studies in 2013 and 2014.

Findings also showed that more than 40% of visitors arrived from the southwest of England, followed by London and the Southeast (22.5%). Peak months for visitors to the islands were June, July and August for longer holidays (8+ days), whilst May and September were most popular for short breaks.

Of those booking accommodation, 41% of respondents booked online with their accommodation provider; 33% booked by telephone. 59% felt that a quality star rating was important or very important – rising to 65% amongst first time visitors.

Online resources important

When asked which information sources visitors used when planning and booking their trip to Scilly, 62% of respondents used with a further 36% using the Isles of Scilly Guide (brochure). Moreover, 34% regarded the website to have been the most useful source of information – up by 10% on 2014.

Use of social media, in particular Facebook, increased significantly in 2015 over 2014 – from 59% to 83% in just one year. This is particularly interesting given the age range of respondents: two thirds of visitors to the islands were aged 45 years or over (66%) compared with 57% in 2014. Use of Twitter rose from 24% to 28%, Pinterest from 6% to 11% and Instagram 6% to 10%. Google+ dropped to 16% from 21%.

Rest & relaxation, walking and island hopping major draws to Scilly

The features and activities on the islands which visitors considered of highest importance to them were walking, rest & relaxation, island hopping, beaches, wildlife, local plants and gardens, and eating out. Indeed, 63% of visitors said a food and drink festival would encourage them to visit, with walking festivals, music events and maritime festivals also considered a draw.

Other statistics revealed by the survey found that 38% of first-time visitors were initially prompted to come to Scilly by a personal recommendation, followed by visiting and seeing Scilly featured on TV. 97% of visitors rated their holiday as good or excellent, with general atmosphere (98%) and sense of welcome (94%) scoring well. The islands scored lowest for the quality (58% good or excellent) and range (53%) of evening entertainment in particular value for money of places to eat and drink, and the quality and range of grocery provision shops.

Average spend increasing

Average spend per person per day on the islands (excluding accommodation) was £49.30 (compared with £44.88 in 2014) ranging from £48.35 for staying visitors and £54.26 for those visiting Scilly for the day.

30% of visitors said it was important that they arrived on the islands on a Saturday, whilst 21% said the same for a Thursday and 20% for a Friday. The largest proportion of respondents overall said that they could be flexible, however. More than half of the respondents felt that the St. Mary’s airport upgrade and Porthcressa development had improved the islands.

72% of respondents reached their connecting flights or boat to the islands by car; a further 14% connected by train. Only 2% connected by air (down from 10% in 2014). Lands’ End and St. Mary’s Airport received high levels of satisfaction amongst visitors, and Penzance Quay, the lowest.

“This comprehensive survey once again looked at many aspects of the visitor experience of Scilly and has enabled us to build on the knowledge we have already gleaned from the 2014 visitor survey and the face-to-face interviews undertaken in 2013. We are better able to spot and analyse emerging trends based on real data, for example the continued rise in first time visitors, the need for a better quality and more varied food and drink offering, and the importance of a sustained and up-to-date online presence,” says Islands’ Partnership Executive Director, David Jackson. “Understanding our visitors’ experiences and monitoring the profile of tourism in Scilly as a whole not only enables local businesses to align services to the expectations and needs of their customers, but also provides an evidence base to support product development and any future business development that helps to grow the value of the islands’ visitor economy.”

The 2015 Visitor Survey was conducted by the Islands’ Partnership in association with The South West Research Company.