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More than a quarter of visitors to Scilly in 2014 were new to the islands and of these new visitors, half of them came for a short break. 55% of visitors came to Scilly for their main holiday of the year, however this proportion was highest amongst those on a repeat visit. Of those first timers on a short break, the majority opted to stay in serviced accommodation – hotels, B&Bs or guesthouses.

These are just some of the findings from the 2014 Visitor Survey conducted by the Islands’ Partnership throughout last season in association with The South West Research Company.

The 74% of visitors who returned to our islands in 2014 remain very loyal to the Scilly brand and alongside our new visitors, cite the scenery (81%) and peace and quiet (79%) as the overwhelming reasons which make Scilly special.  64% of respondents were further inspired by our beaches.

Many of our first time visitors (42%) had come to Scilly on the recommendation of others. A further 17% had heard of the islands via visitislesofscilly.com and 6% via the Visit Isles of Scilly Guide (brochure). 11% of first timers had come to Scilly as a result of seeing the islands on television. The Visit Isles of Scilly and Isles of Scilly Travel websites were both considered the most useful sources of information for planning and booking their trips. Of all respondents 59% were regular Facebook users.

The survey also found that 98% of visitors were from the UK but, interestingly the proportion of visitors from the southwest fell from 38% in 2013 to 33% in 2014, indicating that Scilly is attracting visitors from further afield in the UK. Of the 2% of overseas visitors 24% came from Germany; 14% from the Netherlands.

Other statistics revealed by the survey – which attracted 1,552 usable online submissions – suggested that more than half (57%) of visitors to Scilly are at least 45 years old; 18% were older than 65. Three quarters (74%) of respondents travelled by car to reach their Scilly connections. Only 6% of respondents were day trip passengers.

Specific features that were considered most important on the islands were rest and relaxation, island hopping and beaches. Although local events did not rate highly as an important aspect on their holiday, a third of respondents did say that a food and drink festival would definitely encourage them to visit Scilly, as would music events and a maritime celebration. An overwhelming 98% of visitors rated their holiday experience as either excellent or good, with 99% saying that they would come again and 94% suggesting they would recommend Scilly as a holiday destination to the friends and family. Furthermore, 71% said they would consider a winter break on Scilly.

The highest level of satisfaction amongst visitors whilst on the islands was with accommodation and inter-island boating, closely followed by eating out and island activities. Only the retail offer and grocery provision on the islands scored less than average for the overall visitors’ experience. The travel experience also scored fairly well for customer service and information but not so well for cost or flexibility of travel. Satisfaction levels were generally higher amongst those travelling to the islands via Skybus than those using the Scillonian.

“This was a comprehensive survey that touched many aspects of the visitor experience on Scilly, and something which we are repeating this year so that we can compare statistics and start to look at trends over time,” says David Jackson Executive Director. “We’re already aware that we’re attracting a healthy number of first time visitors to the islands and we’re working hard to enhance the overall visitor experience and maximize the economic benefits without losing that overall essential essence of Scilly,” he notes. “In line with this, the Islands’ Partnership is looking ahead with some major events next year and seeking to extend the season. We’ll continue with our marketing efforts and our winter training programme for businesses to help them enhance their offering and, of course, we’ve recently taken up the mantle of looking for solutions that will improve the transport provision for both businesses on and visitors to the islands.”

Islands' Partnership members can view the full survey in the Members area of the IP website: www.islandspartnership.co.uk > Members Home > Industry Reports > Surveys