Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) has asked VisitScotland for an urgent review of its decision to close Lochboisdale Visitor Information Centre (VIC).
Alan Graham, the Vice-Chairman of Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) and the co-owner of Orasay Inn tourist business in Lochcarnan, comments: “It is sad that OHT, the organisation representing businesses across the tourism industry in the Outer Hebrides, were neither involved nor consulted on this decision.”
OHT has therefore now expressed its concern to VisitScotland about tourist information provision in the Outer Hebrides. Whilst OHT was briefed on a wider review in December 2015, it was assured that any changes to local visitor information centres, and the process of doing so, would be discussed with them. That has not happened.
“Whilst OHT recognises and welcomes the use of digital technology as an information source, we are proud that the experience of a holiday in the Outer Hebrides is renowned for the local personal touch so loved by visitors. Visitors should not have to rely solely on a world-wide web for local information. But relying on enlisting tourism businesses in Lochboisdale to plug the gap left by the closure by signing them up to VisitScotland’s new ‘Visitor Information Partner' campaign is unfair on busy businesses focussed on meeting the needs of their own visitors."
OHT says it would have been keen to discuss possibilities for interim arrangements for the Lochboisdale VIC had the recruitment problem been properly shared with its team. OHT has now sought a meeting with VisitScotland to explore all options to reinstate this visitor information centre at Lochboisdale as a matter of urgency. Ferry passengers arriving at Lochboisdale now find the nearest visitor centres are in Castlebay, another ferry journey away on Barra, and Lochmaddy, several islands and a long drive to the north.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil is dismayed at the closure of the Lochboisdale Tourist Office as VisitScotland state that they are unable to recruit suitable staff.
Mr MacNeil has received confirmation from VisitScotland that the decision has been taken not to re-open the premises and roll out the VisitScotland Information Partner (VIP) programme, a strategy which will include industry, working with VisitScotland to provide more information to more people through more outlets.
A decision to close the Lochboisdale Visit Scotland office has been met with incredulity by Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan.
Visit Scotland say that following the departure of a key member of staff, they made ‘numerous’ attempts to recruit seasonal staff for the centre – all of which were unsuccessful.
As a result, the tourism body has decided not to re-open the office.
Three major capital projects funded by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on Barra and Vatersay are making significant progress, as evidenced by some impressive aerial photographs taken recently from a drone owned by local photographer, John MacDougall.
CnES announced this in a media release this week after facing protests for months from the Bùth Bharraigh community shop about the Council's plans to demolish the building later this year. All the projects are part of the South Uist & Barra Regeneration Programme. Bùth Bharraigh community shop have e-mails from other Council officials offering them the chance to have a lease of up to 20 years on the former Co-operative store in central Castlebay. The Council say the building is an eyesore.
Special report from Katie Macleod in New York
On screen and off, Hebrideans have been leaving their mark on Outlander, the Golden Globe-nominated, award-winning, £50 million TV series that has taken the USA by storm – but still flies under the radar in Scotland, where it is set, filmed, and produced.
The series, based on the bestselling books by US author Diane Gabaldon, follows the story of Claire, an English combat nurse who in 1945 visits a Callanish-style standing stone circle in Inverness while on her second honeymoon. Thanks to the stones, she finds herself transported through time to 18th century Scotland, where she falls in love with Jamie, the handsome head of the Fraser clan, and tries to stop the Jacobite rebellion she knows is coming.