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DEMAND FROM HEBCELT FANS LEADS TO ACCOMMODATION APPEAL
17 Apr 2014
International demand to attend this year’s Hebridean Celtic Festival has led to the earliest ever appeal being made to help house visitors in the host town of Stornoway.
With three months still to go, accommodation in Stornoway is already under pressure for the week of HebCelt, which runs from 16-19 July and will be headlined by Levellers, Big Country and Donnie Munro.
Organisers of the award-winning festival say they are delighted with the level of interest, particularly from overseas music fans. Early birds tickets for the event went on sale in December and quickly sold out, while the sale of day and weekend passes is keeping pace with last year, which was the most successful in HebCelt’s 18-year history.
The 2013 HebCelt attracted an audience of 16,000 – double the population of Stornoway – with more than half coming from outside the Hebrides and helping to generate around £1 million for the local economy.
Passenger numbers on ferries taking fans back to the mainland from Lewis on Sunday and Monday were up 18 per cent on the previous year and the number of people calling at VisitScotland’s information centre in Stornoway during festival week showed an increase of over 50 per cent on 2012. Numbers using the Laxdale Holiday Park in Lewis also doubled.
So far this year, nearly 80 per cent of all sales are off-island, with tickets being bought by fans from as far afield as New Zealand, the Far East, Canada, US and all around Europe.
More than 40 per cent have been to the festival before and an additional 27 per cent have had the event recommended by family or friends.
Such is the interest this year that residents in Lewis have been asked much earlier than usual to make beds available to supplement accommodation in hotels and guest houses.
Alastair Lockett, VisitScotland’s visitor services team leader for the Outer Hebrides, said: “Most of the accommodation in Stornoway is already full for festival week. I would definitely say that bookings have been made about a month earlier than usual.
“This demonstrates the increasing popularity of HebCelt. People from around the world are keen to come to this renowned event and, increasingly early, they are making sure they have everything booked so they can enjoy their visit to the full.
“We are expecting further enquiries as the event gets nearer and we need help from local people to ensure everyone is found a bed.
"If anyone is able to offer good quality accommodation between 16-19 July, please contact the VisitScotland Information Centre, 26 Cromwell St, Stornoway Tel: 01851 703088.”
Festival director Caroline MacLennan added: “It is encouraging that we are attracting such high demand for accommodation at this early stage and we hope the trend continues as we get nearer to festival time.
“The interest we have from overseas visitors demonstrates the tremendous pull that the festival has and the fact people are enjoying the event and the island surroundings enough to come back is good news for us and local businesses.
“Our international visitors certainly add to the atmosphere and colour of the event, but we are also dependent on fans closer to home to make it a success. While tickets are still available, we would advise those who are planning to come to book as soon as possible.”
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