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A marine tourism firm in Skye is set to expand and create jobs after securing funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for a new vessel to run trips to St Kilda.
SeaSkye Marine Limited was established by Kenneth and Kerry MacKinnon in 2017 and runs trips from Waternish to St Kilda, under the Go To St Kilda brand, as well as shorter, more family-orientated trips around Skye from Carbost.
The St Kilda trips are now fully booked for 75 per cent of the April to September season and consistently receive five-star ratings on Tripadvisor.
HIE has awarded the company a grant of £36,910 and the money will go towards the cost of upgrading the vessel used for the St Kilda trips from an 11-metre to a 13-metre vessel.
The larger boat will be more robust and less susceptible to weather-related cancellations. It will allow Go To St Kilda to schedule six trips a week instead of three or four and will also improve passenger comfort.
The original vessel will then be used to expand the company’s offering by adding trips to Harris and the Shiants.
The changes are expected to boost the company’s turnover by more than £240,000, increase international sales by more than £95,000 and create four full-time equivalent jobs with above average wage levels.
Eilidh Ross, business development account manager with HIE on Skye, said: ‘Marine tourism generates more than £350million for Scotland’s economy, with potential for further substantial growth.
‘SeaSkye Marine is an important part of the wider tourism offering on Skye. The directors have made excellent progress with the company while keeping a keen eye on the future.
‘This planned expansion is the next logical step for the company and we are very pleased to be able to provide support for that.’
Mr MacKinnon of SeaSkye Marine added: ‘We’re really pleased to have secured this support from HIE, enabling us to take the next step in expanding our business.
‘Demand is certainly growing from people who are keen to explore further afield while visiting Skye.
‘St Kilda has massive appeal, due to its culture history and international recognition for nature.
‘It’s great to be able to schedule more trips to the archipelago with confidence, and to also offer the additional attraction of trips to Harris and the Shiants.’
CAPTION: Seaskye’s 11-metre vessel (pictured) will be upgraded to a 13- metre vessel, with HIE support. From left, Jordan Young (crewman), Mark Coombe (skipper), Kenny MacKinnon (skipper and owner) and Eilidh Ross (HIE). Photograph: Iain Smith/HIE.