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A number of tourist information centres in Argyll are to close following a serious decline in the number of visitors using them.
The VisitScotland centre at Dunoon, which has seen a 41 per cent decline in footfall since 2006/07, will close permanently next year, followed in 2019 by centres at Campbeltown, Tarbert and Inveraray.
However, four ‘high-footfall’ centres – Bowmore, Craignure, Oban and Rothesay – are to become ‘new travel hubs, collectively welcoming more than 303,000 visitors a year’.
VisitScotland said the changes are part of a new strategy to address a transformation in the way visitors access information on what to see and do.
The national tourism body said: ‘With a 58 per cent drop in footfall to VisitScotland tourist information centres across Scotland in the past 12 years, and two out of three visitors now accessing information online, a new approach is being introduced to ensure customers’ demands are met.
‘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.
‘In Argyll and the Isles, the high-footfall centres will be supported by 106 VisitScotland information partners (VIPs) in the region, including the Royal Hotel in Campbeltown, Inveraray Woollen Mill and the Cruachan Visitor Centre on the shores of Loch Awe, providing local knowledge to the two million people who visit Argyll and the Isles every year.’
VisitScotland added: ‘With so many relying on smartphones and tablets for information, a big focus of the strategy will be digital communications. Annually, visitscotland.com generates 20 million sessions from over 13 million users and includes online booking availability, interactive community pages, blogs and a trip planner tool.
‘In the past 12 months, the redesigned visitscotland.com has delivered 2.7 million referrals worth a potential £560 million to businesses – up 45 per cent on 2016/17).
‘VisitScotland staff have also been significantly mobilised over the past 18 months enabling knowledgeable advisers to deliver face to face information to every corner of Scotland at events and attractions. A fleet of Coo Vans hit the road last summer on a mission to inform the masses and in addition VisitScotland delivers outreach at major events with pop-up information hubs.’
David Adams McGilp, Argyll’s regional director for 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 Argyll and the Isles as possible with the information they want, in the way they want it, when they want it.’
Calum Ross, chairman for the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative, added: ‘The way visitors access information has changed and we need to respond to that. We need to look beyond bricks and mortar to deliver this content to ensure they get the most out any trip they are making.
‘We are increasing our information channels across Argyll and the Isles with innovative new partnerships involving businesses, attractions and accommodation providers. In addition, we are investing in our own digital channels and working with our members to do likewise to ensure that we are responding to customer needs and are providing compelling content that will inspire as well as inform.
‘We are also witnessing exponential growth in the value placed on personal recommendations, with online reviews really influencing decision-making. Visitors want to glean information on the hidden gems over the breakfast table or in the local pub. With this in mind, Argyll and the Isles already have 106 VisitScotland information partners across the region geared up to welcome and inform visitors.
‘This still leaves a place for VisitScotland iCentres at hub locations where key decisions are made, literature is needed and a face to face interaction will be welcomed.’
For more information on the Information Strategy for VisitScotland visit www.visitscotland.org/ visitorinformation.aspx