2 out of 3 tourism centres facing axe
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’.