There has been a drastic shake-up in VisitScotland's plans for tourist advice in the Outer Hebrides - which last year saw all the remaining Uist and Barra offices close and a plan to close either Stornoway or Tarbert as well.
Outer Hebrides Tourism says: "We have been working with VisitScotland on visitor information provision. The proposal has come a long way from the initial position of having one hub in Lewis or Harris to service all the islands and we feel this is a better outcome."
VisitScotland says: "The way visitors get information has changed significantly over the past decade with two in three visitors now accessing information online. Research has shown that we might now seek information at the breakfast table, in the pub and whilst out at visitor attractions.
"While technology has changed the way that tourists access information about the destinations they intend to visit, face-to-face contact will always be an important way for visitors to engage with local people and make the most of their time in Scotland.
"VisitScotland announced in October 2017 that changes would be made to its information provision nationally. As part of this, it was important to conduct an additional review and consultation to determine the best way forward for the Outer Hebrides by working directly with Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) and stakeholders.
"VisitScotland is delighted to announce that this partnership with OHT will continue through a formal agreement to work together to ensure the future of visitor information provision in the Outer Hebrides reaches more people with personalised information. This is so they are well-informed and encouraged to stay longer, spend more and spread the benefits of tourism across the Outer Hebrides all year round.
"The partnership between VisitScotland and OHT will see us working together and closely with communities, businesses and organisations, to build a network of ambassadors and information touchpoints in every corner of the Outer Hebrides, showcasing its rich assets, hidden gems and local stories.
VisitScotland will work in partnership with OHT to:
- Invest in enhancing the current provision in Stornoway by either relocating the current centre or refurbishing it
- Renegotiate the lease of the current iCentre building in Tarbert to provide the opportunity to create a new, year-round, retail and information partnership with local retail business
- Create significant new information partnerships throughout the Uists, supported by a dedicated member of staff based seasonally in a partnership outlet
- Roll out a network of Wi-Fi spots to businesses providing information
- Provide an appropriate presence for the Outer Hebrides in VisitScotland iCentres in key mainland locations such as Ullapool, Oban, Portree and Inverness
- Develop new information partnerships with partners and community outlets across the Outer Hebrides
- Promote, help recruit and monitor the effectiveness of the VisitScotland Information Partner (VIP) programme based on the existing successful models of VisitKelso and the NC500.