Outline Strategy for a Creative Marketing Plan for Mull and Iona

Visit Mull and Iona Chair, Margaret Matthew, attended a Mull and Iona Ferry Committee meeting with Scottish Government Minister for Transport, Fiona Hyslop, on August 24th 2023. VMI presented a recent members’ revenue survey as evidence that the major ferry disruption at the start of the 2023 season was continuing to have a negative effect on business revenue and that marketing action needed to take place to offset the loss of reputation.  A report of the full meeting can be found on MIFC website.



The ferry disruption that took place at the start of the Mull and Iona Tourism Season 2023 caused chaos for both visitors and residents. The Mull and Iona Ferry Committee, in conjunction with all island organisations, carried out a business impact survey in June 2023 which clearly identified the negative economic impact to Mull and Iona of the failure of the Scottish Government to provide a reliable ferry service for the islands.

The extensive negative coverage in the press and social media painted a very poor image of ferry travel to Mull world-wide.

As the 2023 season progressed, it was clear the islands were not as busy as normal.  Visit Mull and Iona (VMI), the Destination Marketing Organisation for the islands sent out a brief survey to their members at the end of July, to assess revenue. The results were clear; the revenue already gained and the projected bookings for the rest of the season and for 2024 were down.  In particular bookings for October 2023 were mentioned as low.  Comments in the survey outlined the loss of repeat customers, cancellations and lack of bookings, often citing a lack of visitor confidence in the ferry service as the cause.

Also noticed by VMI was the lack of coverage about Mull and Iona by inbound tourism agencies and organisations world-wide; normally there are several articles appearing online and on social media daily.

VMI believe the ferry disruption has caused serious damage to the reputation of Mull and Iona as an excellent visitor experience with both visitors and the tourism industry world-wide. 

There are at least another 2 years of potential ferry service failure to be endured before new ferries arrive; the media will have a field day every time there is a breakdown and the negativity will be reinforced again and again.

If nothing is done to reverse the negative perception of travel to Mull and Iona, the tourism economy, which is of huge importance to the islands, will gradually diminish, which will affect every islander.  

What is required is to inject resources into a creative marketing plan to offset the negativity which is currently keeping visitors away and preventing promotion by tourism agencies. This is needed to redirect people’s focus to the positive aspects of a visit to Mull and Iona.


Outline Creative Marketing Plan

Main Aim: To counteract the downturn in visitor numbers due to the negativity created by the ferry disruption. 

This will be achieved by the following:

  • Engaging a PR Consultant, Travel Writers and Influencers to write inspiring text about a visit to Mull and Iona, focussing on the different strengths of the islands, to be published in a range of media for chosen target markets. Liaison with tour operators and travel advisors. Crisis aversion management when there is ferry disruption
  • Social media and enewsletter campaigns via Visit Mull and Iona, including off season promotion 2023 & 2024 to help recoup lost revenue
  • Liaison with AITC and VisitScotland for promotional opportunities
  • Marketing surgeries for individual businesses to help maximise their revenue
  • Surveys with the Mull and Iona Tourism sector 



To be effective in the main aim, a budget of £100,000 is proposed for promotions, to be delivered from September 2023 to May 2024 with a reassessment of the situation at the end of that time. Given the revenue lost through the ferry disruption and the continuing lack of visitor confidence, this is a small price to pay to provide islanders with a means to help reverse the damage inflicted on their livelihoods; around £70.00 per household.


Management and Delivery of the Strategy

Visit Mull and Iona DMO has a track record of managing strategies and campaigns, including grant-funded projects.  The only income is from member subscriptions, but the DMO model works well.  The paid Marketing Adviser works one day a week ensuring the membership and all online promotions work smoothly, while the steering group take on voluntary tasks depending on their skills and interests. The current Chair has many years’ experience as a consultant in tourism marketing, including destination marketing.