Tourist cen­tre to face axe in­side two years

Blairgowrie Advertiser - - NEWS - Rachel Clark

Blair­gowrie’s tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tre is set to close within the next two years.

As part of what VisitS­cot­land is calling a “di­verse trans­for­ma­tion” in the way it op­er­ates vis­i­tor cen­tres, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has an­nounced Blair­gowrie’s of­fice in the Wellmeadow is to close by the end of March 2019.

VisitS­cot­land says it has seen a 58 per cent drop in foot­fall to its ‘iCen­tres’ over the past 12 years, with more and more tourists choos­ing to find out in­for­ma­tion on­line.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion says in­for­ma­tion will still be avail­able for tourists in the town, through ar­range­ments VisitS­cot­land has with vis­i­tor at­trac­tions, busi­nesses, tourism groups and tourism ex­perts in the lo­cal area.

Staff at the pop­u­lar Blair­gowrie cen­tre said they will be sad to see it shut, adding it was the end of an era.

A spokesper­son for VisitS­cot­land said the agency would do ev­ery­thing it could to min­imise job losses.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­plained: “The plan is to of­fer vol­un­tary re­dun­dan­cies and we will also be of­fer­ing the chance to learn new skills, and be re-skilled to work in other ar­eas of VisitS­cot­land.

“They can also move to another of­fice, for ex­am­ple, to the nearby Perth iCen­tre.

“There are op­por­tu­ni­ties to move if they would like to, and there will be no com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies. We are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to min­imise job losses in the area.”

Murdo Fraser, Con­ser­va­tive MSP for Mid Scot­land and Fife and a former Alyth res­i­dent, has con­demned the planned clo­sure, say­ing ru­ral ar­eas around Blair­gowrie don’t al­ways have strong enough mo­bile and wifi sig­nals to cope with ev­ery­thing be­ing moved to dig­i­tal.

He said: “This is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing for ev­ery­one in­volved in the tourism in­dus­try in Perth and Kin­ross.

“The ad­vent of smart­phones has un­doubt­edly im­proved the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence but there is still a place for phys­i­cal tourist in­for­ma­tion sites.

“With mo­bile in­ter­net ac­cess patchy at the best across much of ru­ral Perth and Kin­ross, it’s am­bi­tious to think that tourists will be able to use the in­ter­net and ac­cess app con­tent whilst out and about.

“I would en­cour­age VisitS­cot­land to think again when it comes to clos­ing these sites, as noth­ing comes close to re­plac­ing the in­sider in­for­ma­tion of­fered.”

Jim Clark­son, re­gional part­ner­ships di­rec­tor at VisitS­cot­land, said: “The way vis­i­tors ac­cess in­for­ma­tion has changed sig­nif­i­cantly over the past decade.

“It’s time to switch our fo­cus and in­vest­ment into new and di­verse ini­tia­tives to en­sure we are reach­ing as many vis­i­tors to Perthshire as pos­si­ble with the in­for­ma­tion they want, in the way they want it, when they want it.

“With three in four adults now own­ing a smart­phone, a key fo­cus is en­sur­ing our dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­vide suc­cinct inspirational and in­for­ma­tional ad­vice to vis­i­tors at ev­ery stage of their jour­ney.”

The tourist in­for­ma­tion cen­tre in Perth is set to be­come one of VisitS­cot­land’s 24 new “high im­pact” travel hubs.

Mr Clark­son con­tin­ued: “How­ever, we know that speak­ing to lo­cals is im­por­tant to our vis­i­tors and with our high foot­fall iCen­tres in Perth and Pit­lochry, over 110 lo­cal in­for­ma­tion part­ners and our team of outreach staff trav­el­ling around the coun­try, it means that there is al­ways ad­vice on what to see and do and where to go wher­ever peo­ple are.

“The in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion is upon us and we look for­ward to telling more and more vis­i­tors all about Perthshire across all our dif­fer­ent chan­nels for many years to come.”

As part of what’s been dubbed an “in­for­ma­tion rev­o­lu­tion”, VisitS­cot­land plans to spend £10m a year on de­vel­op­ing its dig­i­tal of­fer­ing.

The na­tional agency also hopes to in­crease its use of ‘pop-up’ in­for­ma­tion hubs at ma­jor events.

It will also in­crease its use of ‘Coo Vans’, which were in­tro­duced across Scot­land this sum­mer.

The vans travel across the coun­try and pro­vide tourist in­for­ma­tion and in­spi­ra­tion at events, vis­i­tor at­trac­tions and tourism hotspots.

East Perthshire-based John Swin­ney, MSP for Perthshire North, said he wel­comes the move by VisitS­cot­land.

He said: “Vis­i­tors are chang­ing the ways in which they ob­tain tourism in­for­ma­tion with a huge shift to dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy. This clearly raises ma­jor chal­lenges about the sus­tain­abil­ity of a vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion cen­tre net­work.

“I wel­come the de­ci­sion to main­tain Perth and Pit­lochry as vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion hubs and the will­ing­ness of VisitS­cot­land to work with our ex­cel­lent tourism busi­nesses and or­gan­i­sa­tions in Blair­gowrie to en­sure there is a wide avail­abil­ity of lo­cal tourism of­fices.

“Part­ner­ships be­tween VisitS­cot­land and lo­cal busi­nesses have been very suc­cess­ful in en­sur­ing avail­abil­ity of in­for­ma­tion and I look for­ward to work­ing with busi­nesses and tourism as­so­ci­a­tions to sup­port this process at lo­cal level.”

The Blair­gowrie cen­tre is one of three af­fected in Perth and Kin­ross. The oth­ers set to be hit are in Aber­feldy and Dunkeld.

The way in which vis­i­tors ac­cess in­for­ma­tion has changed sig­nif­i­cantly over the past decade . . .

Jim Clark­son, Visit Scot­land

Pop­u­lar Dougie Ma­cLean played the pop­u­lar ‘Cale­do­nia’ in Blair­gowrie’s tourist in­for­ma­tion of­fice to pro­mote the Perthshire Am­ber mu­sic fes­ti­val

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