Letter: VisitScotland’s chief’s view

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Sir,

The changes to information provision in Argyll and the Isles are aligned with a national strategy to deliver visitor information through a variety of channels.

The two-year strategy will see a significant increase in the number of channels providing content on places to visit and stay, with a mix of industry partners, Coo Vans and digital products sitting alongside 26 key VisitScotland iCentres in high impact locations.

As part of this, some difficult decisions have been made across the country.

In Argyll and the Isles, we have worked in partnership with the local authority and the Argyll and Isles Tourism Co-operative for the last two years in deciding where we retain services in the region.

Decisions about which iCentres to keep open have been based on iCentre performance rather than iCentre staff performance.

The VisitScotland iCentre at Campbeltown has seen a 58 per cent decrease in visitor footfall over the last decade.

Accommodation booking numbers provide a clear indication of the demand for continuing a manned service and, with only 49 bookings made in 2016/17, the iCentre has experienced a 78 per cent decline in this service since 2006/07. As a result of this, Campbeltown iCentre will cease operating by March 2019.

We acknowledge that the iCentre currently assists in providing a ticketing service for Mull of Kintyre Seatours and, within the timescales outlined last week, we will offer the business a digital business surgery to assist them in developing an online ticket booking facility.

Gifts and souvenirs sales are not the core purpose of our iCentre estate and this presents an opportunity for local businesses in the future.

In Argyll and the Isles we will work with the community during the coming months to understand the opportunities in Campbeltown and we will be approaching Live Argyll which operates leisure and museum services across the region.

In other parts of the country including the Highlands, Angus, Aberdeenshire, the Scottish Borders and Fife we have been able to work with leisure trusts to ensure they have, via their staff and facilities, the ability to offer local information.

Not only does this provide a continuity of service, it also provides another reason for the use and sustainability of these public services.

We expect that by working with groups like Live Argyll they will benefit from additional visitor footfall and spend.

Discussions will take place with a number of businesses in the area, to encourage them to join our already impressive network of 106 VisitScotland Information Partners (VIPs) in the region over the next 18 months until the iCentre closes.

Our VIPs are committed to providing local information to visitors and already include The Royal Hotel and The Ugadale Hotel in Campbeltown.

Argyll and the Isles is truly a stunning part of the country and we are confident that visitors will easily be able to discover all there is to see and do in the region through our multiple channels for many years to come.

Malcolm Roughead,

Chief Executive,

VisitScotland,

Edinburgh.