2 out of 3 tourism cen­tres fac­ing axe

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Gavin Made­ley

AL­MOST two-thirds of Scot­land’s tourist information cen­tres face clo­sure un­der a ‘rad­i­cal’ shake-up to meet the de­mands of the dig­i­tal age.

Visit- Scot­land re­vealed that 39 out of the cur­rent 65 are set to close over the next two years, leav­ing only 26 re­gional ‘hubs’ to cover the coun­try.

Bosses stressed that the 71 af­fected staff out of the 700-strong work­force would be of­fered re­dun­dancy pack­ages or re­de­ploy­ment.

Most of the cen­tres ear­marked for clo­sure are in ar­eas some miles from ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­tres, such as Thurso in Caith­ness and Stron­tian, Argyll.

How­ever, Brae­mar, Aberdeenshire, and Drum­nadro­chit, In­ver­ness-shire, as well as ser­vices at Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow air­ports, will also shut.

Tourism chiefs said the de­ci­sion was in re­sponse to the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of on­line ser­vices and a ‘sig­nif­i­cant’ 58 per cent drop in the num­ber of trav­ellers vis­it­ing its cen­tres over the past decade.

Scot­tish Tory cul­ture spokesman Rachael Hamil­ton voiced con­cerns about the loss of lo­cal ex­per­tise and warned that vis­i­tors may strug­gle in ar­eas where in­ter­net con­nec­tions are poor. She said: ‘Cut­ting the num­ber of vis­i­tor information hubs comes at a risk – there’s noth­ing bet­ter than gain­ing lo­cal knowl­edge from a lo­cal per­son. De­pend­ing on dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy for vis­i­tor information is not re­li­able, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral “not-spots”. I hope Visit-Scot­land has care­fully con­sid­ered the im­pact on tourists and lo­cal busi­nesses.’

The 26 re­gional hubs will op­er­ate in ar­eas of greatest vis­i­tor de­mand and of­fer information about at­trac­tions across wider re­gions, said Visit-Scot­land. Among those stay­ing open are cen­tres in Ed­in­burgh, Glas­gow, St An­drews, In­ver­ness, Kirk­wall and Ler­wick.

They will be sup­ple­mented by 1,500 ‘information part­ners’, made up of lo­cal busi­nesses such as bed and break­fasts, dis­til­leries and re­tail­ers who have agreed to help plug the information gap.

Four mo­bile information cen­tres, so-called ‘coo vans’, will tour events and pop­u­lar sites.

Visit-Scot­land said that two out of three vis­i­tors to Scot­land ac­cess information on­line, and £10mil­lion will be in­vested in im­prov­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s dig­i­tal of­fer­ings as well as the new re­gional hubs.

A spokesman added: ‘It’s our clear goal to min­imise job losses. As well as of­fer­ing vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy, we will of­fer a chance to learn new skills or move to an­other of­fice where fea­si­ble.’

Lord John Thurso, chairman of Visit-Scot­land, said the information rev­o­lu­tion had been ‘a gamechanger’. But there will ‘al­ways be ad­vice on what to see and do wher­ever peo­ple are’.

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