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Offices close as tourists go digital

VisitScotland closing 39 information centres

Tourist informationVisitScotland is shutting the majority of its tourist information centres as visitors rely increasingly on digital services.

It will close 39 of its 65 centres over the next two years, leaving 26 “high impact regional hubs”.

Staff affected by the centre closures are to be offered redundancy packages or the chance of redeployment.

Among those closing are centres at Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports, as well as Aberfeldy, Ayr, Callander, Dunfermline, Falkirk, Hawick, Inverary, Kelso and Lanark.

Peebles, Jedburgh, Gretna, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries, Tarbert (Harris) and Stornoway will continue to operate as normal for the time being.

VisitScotland said the number of tourists visiting its information centres had fallen by 58% over the past 10 years. Two out of three visitors were now accessing information online.

The organisation said it would invest £10 million in digital activity and the new hubs.

More information will distributed via “information partners”,  such as bed and breakfasts, distilleries and local shops.

Four so-called “Coo Vans” will also tour the country with tourist information, attending events or popular sites, as part of the strategy.

A VisitScotland spokeswoman said: “”It’s our clear goal to minimise job losses in the changes we are making. 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 VisitScotland said: “It’s time to switch our focus and investment into new and diverse initiatives to ensure we are reaching as many people 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.

“However, we know that speaking to locals is also important to our visitors, and with our 26 high footfall travel hubs, over 1,500 VisitScotland 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.”

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said that despite the drop in the number of information centres, there would be more places for visitors to access information.

He added: “We also believe that VisitScotland will manage these changes in a sensitive way, ensuring that alternatives are in place to help manage any local concerns.”

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