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Local tourism group Love Kintyre will reform as a Community Interest Company which will bid to continue running the iCentres when Visit Scotland pull out.
Love Kintyre spoke with 30 businesses back in 2016 whilst carrying out market research.
The overwhelming feedback was that Kintyre is ‘so much more than a destination’ – so taking on the icentres is both a logical step and a great opportunity to re-invent how the region is marketed.
Love Kintyre believes that whole the digital argument put forward by Visit Scotland is a red-herring.
The icentres are amongst the top-rated attractions on Trip Advisor. The truth is, Visit Scotland has totally lost the digital arms race.
Online referrals from visitscotland.com to one of Kintyre’s largest attractions are outnumbered more than seven to one by unofficial local marketing groups and businesses.
Even the toolkit for their flagship Information Partner programme consists of little more than some templates to fill in and print.
Evidence from England and Wales is that tourist centre closures have had an immediate detrimental effect on businesses that are already under pressure from unregulated competition such as AirBnB.
Love Kintyre has attracted three board members and will be forming as a Community Interest Company limited by guarantee. This allows the business to attract outside funding – and ensures that trading profits are ploughed back into the community.
Unusually, none of the new team run tourism businesses – a conscious decision made by the board.
By choosing local people who don’t have local tourism interests, we are hoping to avoid any suspicion of conflict of interest that has dogged similar initiatives in the past. – but we’re also looking for new ideas that go beyond printing leaflets and coo vans.
As a response to last week’s letter in the Courier from Visit Scotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead, we doubt anyone wants to spend their holiday playing crystal maze as they run from the library to Victoria hall and the museum playing hunt the leaflet.
Nor will they enjoy waving their smartphone around searching for enough bars just so they can book the next boat trip.
Digital technology allows us to deliver a whole new customer experience with local businesses at its heart whilst still supporting groups like the museum or Heritage Centre.
During the next eighteen months, almost every other part of Scotland will be sending out the clear message that tourists are no-longer welcome.
In Kintyre, we will be working to roll out the red carpet.