Tourist centre to face axe inside two years
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
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