VisitScot­land to close 39 of 65 tourist cen­tres

Tourism: Aim is to meet vis­i­tors’ dig­i­tal needs

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - NEWS - BY JOANNE WARNOCK

Scot­tish tourism bosses have con­firmed nearly two-thirds of their tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tres will close as part of a “rad­i­cal” move, de­signed to meet the in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal needs of vis­i­tors.

VisitScot­land an­nounced that 39 of its 65 cen­tres would shut over the next two years, leav­ing 26 “high im­pact re­gional hubs” open – nine of which will be in the north-east and High­land re­gions.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion is blam­ing a 58% de­cline in foot­fall at ex­ist­ing cen­tres in the past 12 years for the clo­sures. Led by Lord Thurso, the cur­rent chair­man of VisitScot­land, the strat­egy will per­ma­nently axe cen­tres in Thurso, Fort Au­gus­tus, Fraser­burgh, Sum­burgh, Dur­ness, Banff, Huntly, Stone­haven, Drum­nadro­chit, Lochin­ver, Stron­tian, Castle­bay, Lochmaddy, Strom­ness, Sum­burgh, In­ver­ary and Camp­bel­town.

Owner of Loch Ness mar­ket­ing, Wil­liam Cameron, last night crit­i­cised the de­ci­sion and ar­gued it would put tourists off. He said: “Peo­ple still want to see peo­ple. We need to look af­ter our cus­tomers.

“It is vi­tal that they get the right in­for­ma­tion from prop­erly-trained staff and not just any Tom, Dick or Harry.

“Tourism in this re­gion is boom­ing, with stag­ger­ing amounts of peo­ple flock­ing to Skye, Loch Ness and the NC 500. With­out the proper in­fra­struc­ture we are go­ing to put them off ever com­ing back.” Some of the cen­tres will cease trad­ing at the end of the month.

Stone­haven com­mu­nity coun­cil chair­man, Phil Mills-Bishop de­scribed the de­ci­sion as a sign of the times and added: “A lot of the com­mu­nity will see it as an­other vis­ual sign of Stone­haven at­ro­phy­ing af­ter the clo­sures of Stone­haven Mag­is­trates Court, and Cly­des­dale and RBS Banks.”

How­ever Neil Chris­tensen from Visit Scot­land con­firmed that they are con­tin­u­ing to sup­port the Acheres-Stone­haven Twin­ning/Con­cor­dat and other projects and will put more re­sources into on­line ser­vices.

Staff af­fected are to be of­fered re­dun­dancy pack­ages or the chance of re­de­ploy­ment. The num­ber of job losses is not yet known.

Other cen­tres ear­marked for clo­sure in­clude those at Ed­in­burgh and Glas­gow Air­ports and Tyn­drum.

Jo Robin­son of VisitScot­land, said: “It’s time to switch our fo­cus and in­vest­ment into new and di­verse ini­tia­tives.”

“With­out proper in­fra­struc­ture we’ll put them off com­ing back”

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