MUCH attention will necessarily be focused on the Scottish mainland this year, with the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn rightly expected to draw many visitors to these shores.

If the most recent evidence is anything to go by, however, our islands will not be left out, for they have been more than holding their own. In fact, the Islands Visitor Survey has found that increasing numbers are heading for the Outer and Northern Isles.

Conducted between October 2012 and last September, the survey found that more than 425,000 people visited Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Isles. The visitors contributed more than £100m to the local economies.

Loading article content

It will come as no surprise to all who know these islands that visitor satisfaction levels were very high, with about 80% stating they were "very satisfied" with their visit. Encouragingly, this verdict is being broadcast to a global audience, with 40% now sharing their experiences online.

Tourism has never been more important to the wellbeing of our islands. It is good to see that this sector is going from strength to strength.