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The Isles of Scilly’s latest official Visitor Survey (2018) has revealed a growing trend for short breaks to the islands, particularly in the shoulder months and by first-time visitors, whilst overall, 2018 saw an increase in first-time visitors, up 3% on the previous year. The results also highlighted that there continues to be a strong interest in visiting outside of the main season, with 68% that would consider visiting the islands between November and March.

The survey also found that, for the third year running, two thirds of visitors to the islands were aged 45+, including in 2018, a higher proportion of those in the 65+ bracket – a reflection of the ageing national population and increased holiday taking amongst the ‘empty nester’ and retired segments.

The Annual Visitor Survey has been conducted by the Islands’ Partnership for the last five years, enabling vital data to be gathered and providing invaluable visitor insight. These in turn, help the IP to shape the islands’ tourism plans by responding to visitor feedback and, ultimately, help to grow the visitor economy. Last year’s survey - the most comprehensive yet - attracted 2,310 responses.

Other findings highlight visitors’ growing desire to be able to book online. 50% of respondents would have preferred to do so had the option been available. This compares with the 28% of respondents who actually did book online. 72% of respondents suggested that online availability was very important, whilst 63% said a good website was also important. The survey also found that 65% of respondents use social media and, of those, 85% were regular users of Facebook. For the first time this year, respondents were more in tune with Instagram (25%) than they were with Twitter (23%).

In terms of how visitors found the information they were looking for, the website was by far the most popular source - used by 64% of staying visitors and an impressive 76% of first time visitors when planning and booking their visit to the Islands. In terms of what information sources respondents found most useful, the website was again the most popular, while a record proportion of visitors (21%) rated the Visit Isles of Scilly Guide (brochure) as the most useful.

Once again, the survey saw no significant change in the reasons that motivate visitors to come to Scilly. The islands’ natural beauty, the general atmosphere and sense of welcome all scored highest again in visitor satisfaction ratings, whilst the features and activities on the islands which visitors considered of highest importance to them were walking, rest & relaxation, island-hopping, the beaches, local food & drink and wildlife.

This appreciation of the islands’ outstanding natural environment was further evidenced by 61% of respondents who indicated that they would be willing to support a local Isles of Scilly environment fund which could help with measures to reduce the impact of visitors on the islands’ natural environment.

When asked what type of events would encourage them to visit Scilly, nature and wildlife events were most popular (59%), closely followed by food and drink festivals (58%) and walking festivals (46%) – all reinforcing the recommendations within Scilly’s Destination Management Plan for these attributes and experiences to play through more strongly in the destination brand. The lack of evening entertainment, grocery provision and the lack of choice and value of the local food and drink offer once again were both named as areas of improvement however.

The Tourist Information Centre (TIC) continues to be a highly valued asset on the islands, scoring exceptionally well in all aspects: 90% rated its quality of service excellent/good, and 91% rated it excellent/good for the usefulness of the information they received.

“The 2018 survey confirms the growing trend that we are seeing across the UK for shorter breaks and a desire for these shorter breaks later and earlier in the season. It is encouraging to note, that with September being a prominent month to visit the islands, and with twice as many visitors in the last quarter of the year as the first, that the Islands’ Partnership is leading the way with plans to help the islands extend the season as a whole – a key element of the Destination Management Plan,” says Islands’ Partnership Executive Director, David Jackson. “We are also encouraged by the early successes of our new online booking functionality on – supporting the strong desire amongst visitors to be able to view availability and to book their accommodation online. The overall performance of our new website is very strong, and the online functionality is proving invaluable in reaching out to new markets and attracting even more new visitors to the islands.”

The comprehensive Visitor Survey 2018 is available to view in members’ area - log into Members' Home and search in Under Surveys). Or feel free to call into the IP office to browse a copy.

The 2018 Visitor Survey was conducted by the Islands’ Partnership in association with The South West Research Company.

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