Case study


An extensive study to develop detailed insight into the experiences of visitors to Orkney and Shetland

The aim

Tourism is one of the most important economic drivers for the Orkney and Shetland Islands; as such, the islands’ local authorities have a strategic objective to ensure that the local economy benefits from tourism in a way that protects their natural, historical and cultural assets. To develop this strategy the local authorities, in partnership with VisitScotland, required robust data and insight evidencing the volume, value and nature of tourism to the islands. Research was also required to enhance understanding of how emerging tourism trends were influencing decisions and behaviours, and impacting on visitors’ expectations, perceptions and experiences.

Our approach

Progressive has undertaken two waves of research in 2017 and 2019. The challenge was to engage with visitors to the islands to gather detailed feedback, whilst avoiding any unnecessary disruption to their trip. We therefore adopted a two-stage approach: firstly, short face-to-face calibration interviews to collect demographic information and trip profile data, with a follow-up online survey to collect more detailed information on reasons for choosing the islands, the visitor journey, and satisfaction with the visitor experience. The first stage of face-to-face interviewing took place at airports and ferry terminals throughout the islands, using our network of interviewers. Over the two waves of research over 10,000 calibration interviews were conducted and 3,800 online responses were received.


The insights from this large scale study have given Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council an in-depth understanding of the people who visit the islands, why they visit and the process of planning and booking, enabling the development of effective strategies to target new visitors. The research also delivered feedback on the quality of the visitor experience and the economic impact of tourism for the islands, ensuring that investment in facilities for visitors could be evidenced and planned effectively.

“For the 2017 and 2019 Islands Visitor Surveys, Progressive designed a robust, 2-stage quantitative approach which enabled the islands to gain a true measure for volume and value of tourism to the islands.  Their comprehensive study also provided rich insight as to the behaviours, attitudes and satisfaction of visitors to shape the future development of tourism on the islands.   This was a multi stakeholder and logistically complex piece of research and the team at Progressive were thorough, detail oriented and professional throughout.” Jacqui Souter, Senior Marketing Insight Manager, VisitScotland

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