VisitScotland to close all information centres by 2026

VisitScotland to close all information centres by 2026

VisitScotland has announced it will close its 25 information centres over the next two years as part of a new strategy to influence tourists in the planning stage of their trip. The organisation said most visitors now used online resources and specialists for research and bookings.

There will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of the shift to a “digital first” strategy. The iCentres will operate as usual until the end of September.

VisitScotland said it was currently engaging with stakeholders to discuss local arrangements ahead of a phased two-year closure programme. But the UK government criticised the decision and urged the Scottish government to reconsider its plans, reported BBC.

The move follows the closure of 39 tourist offices between 2017 and 2019. Staff affected by the latest announcement have been offered a range of options including reskilling, redeployment and voluntary redundancy. VisitScotland chairman Lord Thurso said research had shown it had a “more impactful” role to play in providing information before people travel.

He said: “The tourism landscape has changed significantly in recent years. “The demand for iCentres has reduced while the demand for online information and booking has continued to grow.

“In order to continue building demand and growing the value of tourism and events, it is vitally important that we target channels we know visitors use to influence them to visit Scotland.”

The iCentres currently operate during office hours and offer booklets and leaflets promoting specific locations, landmarks and attractions.

Lord Thurso added: “Our research shows that as an organisation, we have a greater and more impactful role to play in providing information before visitors travel.

“Prioritising a digital first model of information provision allows us to reach potential visitors at those early planning stages when we can shape their future travel decisions.”

The national tourism organisation said the new approach would help to deliver its core purpose to drive the visitor economy as well as expand its reach and influence in Scotland’s key global markets.

VisitScotland said its decision also recognised the shift from in-person and print media to sources including social media and influencer marketing.

But UK Minister for Scotland John Lamont said the closures would be a “blow to our towns” and put those who use their services at a disadvantage.

He added: “While online tourism is growing, it is not available to all and these centres from Lerwick to Dumfries ensure vital information can be accessed by those tourists, particularly the elderly.

 “I’d urge the Scottish government to consider the impact this will have on local businesses and on visitors to areas where tourism is a huge part of the local economy.”

Louise MacLean, of the Scottish Hospitality Group, described tourism as the country’s “golden goose” and expressed concern that the loss of iCentres would cut off those who were not digital savvy.

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Lunchtime Live programme: “It is a sign of the times but I am not sure that it is going to work for everyone.”

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