Big rise in Outer Hebrides tourism
The number of people visiting the Outer Hebrides has risen by 27% over the past six years, according to a study.
The Islands Visitor Survey said more than 218,000 people visited the isles and spent more than £53.5m between October 2012 and September 2013.
Some 87% of visitors said they were very satisfied with their stay, with a further 11% saying they had been "fairly satisfied".
In 2006, a similar study reported 171,137 people visited the islands.
The Northern Isles also benefited from high numbers of overnight and day visitors.
End Quote Alasdair Macleod Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
It is very reassuring to see that satisfaction levels are so high”
Shetland attracted 64,655 visitors and a total spend of £16m, while Orkney's 142,816 visitors spent a total of more than £31m.
The main influence on visitors when booking a trip to the Western Isles last year was the scenery and landscape, according to the survey.
Just under half of those who visited the islands had been before.
Of those surveyed, 74% spent their time visiting beaches and coastal scenery.
One noticeable area of change from the previous survey was that 41% of visitors shared their experiences online during and after their trip, with almost a third uploading photos of their visit to social media sites.
The research was commissioned by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland, who have all welcomed the results.
Alasdair Macleod, chairman of the comhairle's sustainable development committee, said: "It is very reassuring to see that satisfaction levels are so high and that the vast majority of visitors would recommend the Outer Hebrides as a holiday destination to their friends and relatives."
Alan Mackenzie, VisitScotland's island manger, added: "Tourism is a key driver to the economy of the Outer Hebrides and these results illustrate how resilient and sustainable the industry is in the long term.
"We are delighted to see growth in both visitor numbers and satisfaction particularly during the challenging economic climate."
Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said the results of the survey were "fantastic".
He added: "With beautiful scenery, rich history and diverse culture it's no surprise that Scotland's islands are attracting more visitors and encouraging them to spend more and stay longer."