HebCelt festival valued at more than £4m for economy after sold-out revival’s tourism boom

An island music festival delivered an economic boost of £4.2 million to the Outer Hebrides when it returned after a three-year hiatus in the summer.

A record attendance of more than 18,000 was recorded by the four-day Hebridean Celtic Festival.

The value of the event, held in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, is said to have doubled in the space of four years.

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According to audience research carried out after this year’s event, one in five of those who attended the festival were on their first visit to the Outer Hebrides.

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    Visitors spent an average of £1,104 during their stay on the islands, compared to around £600 from the 2018 festival, with the average trip lasting more than six days this year.

    An economic impact report for the festival estimated the event’s return supported 62 jobs across the tourism industry in the Outer Hebrides.

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    More than 30 acts performed at the 2022 festival, which belatedly celebrated its 25th anniversary in July after organisers were forced to scrap the event in 2020 and stage a small-scale hybrid version in 2021.

    Texas, Seasick Steve, Tide Lines, Elephant Sessions, Skipinnish and Julie Fowlis all performed at this year’s event, which was supported by the national agencies Creative Scotland and EventScotland, as well as the local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

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    Festival director Graham MacCallum said: “We’re always humbled by our audiences’ passion and unwavering support, so to know that record numbers chose to come to join us this summer for our 25th-anniversary celebrations means an awful lot. It’s extremely promising to see the far-reaching economic impact HebCelt has had on Lewis and the Hebrides.

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    "It’s so important to the festival that we make a positive contribution to the place we call home. To see the event once again act as a catalyst for people to visit this special part of Scotland is just fantastic.

    "Coupled with the boost for nearby businesses and our success in promoting Celtic music and culture on an international stage, this really shows just how important festivals like ours are.

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    “We’re well into our plans for 2023 and are now working towards July with renewed vigour and positivity, inspired by the knowledge that the cultural and economic importance of our event to the Hebrides and Scotland continues to grow.”

    The Hebridean Celtic Festival is held in Stornoway every July. Picture: Colin Cameron
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    Texas headlined the final night of this year's Hebridean Celtic Festival. Picture: Fiona Rennie