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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
27 March 2024
VisitScotland to close all tourist information centres

All iCentres are due to close by 2026 | Alamy

VisitScotland to close all tourist information centres

VisitScotland has announced it will close all tourist information centres over the next two years.

The move comes in response to changing patterns in how visitors to the country are planning their trips.

The tourism body has found “the majority” of tourists are now getting information about Scotland online ahead of their visit.

They cite the use of TikTok, YouTube, online travel websites, and the emergence of AI tools.

This has prompted VisitScotland to focus its efforts on influencing people at the planning stage before they leave home.  

It is expected that all of the current iCentres will operate as usual until the end of September this year at which point they will start a phasing out programme which will run until the end of March 2026.  

There are currently 25 visitor information centres across Scotland, including in Shetland, Skye, Rothesay, Pitlochry, Jedburgh, Edinburgh, and Glasgow.  

VisitScotland say its new strategy will still support its core purpose of driving the visitor economy and will allow it to promote more of Scotland throughout the year. It is described as a digital-first approach and will see increased attention placed on social media and influencer marketing.

The tourism body is currently discussing future options for staff, whose expertise and knowledge remain “a huge asset to VisitScotland”.  

Lord Thurso, VisitScotland’s chair, 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.

“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.

“Together with businesses and our partners, we want to build on success and ensure that across all areas of our work – marketing, destination development, business advice, insights and events – we prioritise the activities that will deliver for our industry and for Scotland.

“By evolving our work in this way, we will be able to invest in the activities that will accelerate sustainable growth in the visitor economy, helping create jobs, sustain communities and attract investment for the future.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland John Lamont said: “The closure of all 25 VisitScotland tourist information centres across the country will be a blow to our towns and puts at a disadvantage the many thousands of tourists from the UK and beyond, who use their services. 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.”

Speaking at the Conveners Group this morning, First Minister Humza Yousaf said: "I fully accept that there will be some level of concern around the announcement. I think there is also a recognition that the way in which we seek information when we travel to tourist destinations has changed."

He added: "My expectation is that VisitScotland, and they know this, would be to engage with the communities based in these tourist destinations to fully reassure them about what is in place to in order for people to seek information about those destinations even when information centres are closed."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Decisions around how to best target resources and share information with visitors to Scotland are operational matters for VisitScotland. These proposals would bring VisitScotland into line with Visit England and Visit Wales, neither of which operate visitor centres. Importantly, VisitScotland will continue to engage with stakeholders and local businesses on this announcement.

“Tourism is an important sector of our economy. VisitScotland is key to promoting Scotland at home and abroad, supporting tourism businesses and maximising sustainable and responsible growth of the visitor economy.”

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