Sir, It seems to me that both the baby and the bathwater are to go in Visit-Scotland’s reforms.
It is singularly ironic that as Campbeltown prepares to celebrate the re-opening of its historic cinema after a refurbishment costing millions of pounds and overseen by local people throughout, the professionals in charge of another useful and well-used asset for the Wee Toon are preparing to get rid of it.
Campbeltown’s Visit Scotland office, the seventh busiest in Scotland, is to close as apparently everyone gets their information from the internet, and a footfall of more than 26,000 visitors and income of more than £30,000 does not justify its retention.
Another 38 offices across Scotland are to close in this ill-thought out exercise. This is all made even more difficult to comprehend coming as it does only a couple of weeks after the chief executive’s public statement aptly describing the substantial recent increase in visitor numbers as a ‘tourism windfall.’
This is certainly a funny way to treat a windfall, in this case represented by greatly increased numbers of people seeking help and information in the places they are visiting in Scotland.
What the bean counters have failed to grasp is what the busy and often hard-worked staff of their offices actually do.
Firstly, on a daily basis they leave a lasting impression on their visitors of a friendly welcoming desire to really help, something that doesn’t show up on any balance sheet but nevertheless is just part of the good impression they give and which is reflected in the stream of kind and grateful comments that people leave in the visitors’ book.
Secondly, while it is quite
right to say that the internet is a major source of information these days, I know from my own research among passengers who come aboard Seatours trips that a surprisingly large number of them have turned up in Campbeltown ‘hoping to find something to do’.
The fact that they end up on a boat trip, a historic guided walk, a horse-ride, a distillery visit or another of the town’s many attractions is often due to the enterprise of the Visit-Scotland office staff for which the many organisers of visitor-based businesses are grateful.
What I cannot grasp is the rationale of the decision to shut-up shop all over Scotland which I understand is
largely based on annual returns.
I can quite understand why Visit-Scotland would wish to dispose of the unprofitable aspects of their business but I suspect a first-year economics student would have advised them on a different way to do it.
The tourism business in Scotland occurs year-round but the main part of it, particularly in the areas of the offices picked for extinction, is between early April and late September. That is when the majority of those annual visitor numbers for each of the offices will be recorded.
Closing the offices when there are few or no visitors is something that both staff
and off-season visitors can understand.
If lease or other terms dictate, open them once or twice a week for a half-day.
Centralise the administration in one place, prune management numbers and use one or two inspection teams to do stock takes and other supervisory visits.
The alternative, these wholesale closures, will in Campbeltown, and I suspect in many other places, be yet another nail in the coffin of efforts by local people to keep their community alive and economically viable.
Michael Taylor, Managing director of Mull of Kintyre Seatours.