Partnership for the enhancement of visitor experience for tourists and the benefit of local people

Tourism is a key industry for the economy and source of employment for local communities and businesses in Orkney and therefore contributes to the long-term sustainability of its communities and businesses. As the World Heritage Site and Orkney more widely faces key challenges, such as climate change and impacts of volume tourism during peak times, a formal partnership between key national and local agencies has been set up to address these the challenges and opportunities posed by tourism. This partnership brings together HES, OIC and HIE, with a focus on, but not restricted to, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney site, seeking to ensure a sustainable and enhanced visitor experience for tourists and optimising  the benefits to local people.

The partnership foresees a development of different and more inclusive and sustainable tourism opportunities for Orkney in hand with the management plan for the site. An initial investment of over £300,000 at the Stones of Stenness will upgrade car parking facilities and improve the pathways network to encourage greater connection between monuments and surrounding natural and cultural areas.

The Gateway strategy partnership is established on the base of a shared Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed on 11 June 2019 by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), Orkney Islands Council (OIC) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

- Additional funding will be allocated for the development of visitor journey and exploring opportunities for greater connectivity and enhancement of how visitors experience over 5,000 years of history.

- The tourism industry is vital for the sustainability of livelihood in Orkney. Visitors do not only come to Orkney to visit the World Heritage property of Heart of Neolithic Orkney and there is the potential to strengthen the network of natural and cultural places and visitor opportunities to share tourism-related benefit and income among the multiple businesses and communities.

- At present, with the limitation of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is challenging to further quantify the impact of these efforts since the site of Orkney has been closed for great part of the summer season 2020 and entrance into Scotland is still limited to a number of nationalities. However, this unplanned “pause” has allowed further reflection by the partners on how to address these challenges.