Scotland: Scottish islanders have set up a new holiday lettings website to generate revenue for local island communities and invest in affordable housing.
IsleHoliday.com has been set up to ensure that the profits generated from tourism are reinvested into the local communities they serve as a social enterprise project.
Meanwhile, Rhoda Meek, a resident of the Isle of Tiree and founder of Isle Develop CIC, which exists to build innovative, profitable island businesses, has created an online directory – Isle.com – which showcases around 600 small businesses on 26 islands that rely on tourism to continue trading. The directory has received startup funding from the Scottish Islands Federation.
IsleHoliday will accept holiday let property listings from all of the Scottish islands, thereby ensuring visitors can book and make payments, but it will also directly help to fund housing surveys, projects and campaigns to sustain long-term affordable island accommodation for residents.
Many islanders are concerned that the proliferation of global platforms such as Airbnb has reduced the supply of homes for local people. That feeling is heightened all the more when looking over to the mainland, where the Scottish government is seeking to enforce stricter regulations and make licences from councils compulsory for properties being rented out as short-term lets.
Under the latest proposals, properties used for short-term lets will require licences by 2024 at the latest.
It followed the Scottish Government’s publication of a report on short-term lets in which it reinforced its goal to tackle the growth of rentals in tourist areas such as Edinburgh, and it asked individual authorities to set the necessary requirements for granting a permit, while allowing uncapped fees to cover the costs incurred.
Discussing the launch of IsleHoliday.com and Isle.com, Meek told The Herald Scotland: “The housing issue in the islands is a complex one – and can’t be solved overnight. It will take time to change that situation and involve action at a local and national government level.
“The short-term lettings market both brings people to the islands, and removes properties from the local market.
“This results in a lack of affordable housing and long term rentals. Isle20.com showed me that there is both an appetite to support the Scottish islands – because people feel a real affinity with them – and that there is a huge power in working together as island communities.
“By working together with accommodation providers and local organisations we can offer rich information about island life before visitors arrive; from driving on single track roads to public facilities, events and great local businesses to visit during their stay.
“Visitors will have a better experience if we correctly set their expectations. Our islands are not empty wildernesses waiting to be discovered. They are full of heritage and history, present and we hope, future. Those are gems well worth discovering.
“We want to put faces to places and start to change the narrative from destination first, to community first,” she added.