IT seems a bit sad that VisitScotland iCentres are to close, but if the concept has had its day then why keep it going? They will surely have statistics regarding visitor numbers, so will know if they have been tailing off dramatically, likely due to the rise in use of personal devices that can access the internet 24 hours a day.

Also the scale of the operations currently in place may be far too big for the service they provide. Maybe this is an opportunity for someone to step in and replace them or be licensed by the parent organisation? There are plenty of non-VisitScotland “visitor centres” all over Scotland, usually selling local produce or doubling as a cafe. These can (and probably do at present) take on the VisitScotland job in places where there is no VisitScotland presence.

READ MORE: VisitScotland to close every information centre across Scotland

Maybe all these venues need is the addition of a dedicated interface? Keypad payment, or tap payment, like a supermarket, would be a way for VisitScotland to earn commission? I imagine the office and building costs are quite high for what they want to appear as a slick up-market operation, and usually in prime locations? Plus, they close at 4pm or 5pm every day, so are not available in the evenings when folk still need access to tourist information. How many potential customers have arrived at a locked door and simply resorted to a DIY solution using their own mobile phone?

It would be interesting to see how the organisation is structured. Are they suffering from top-heavy staff costs? Bloated salaries at the top eating up the staff budget? Can 90% of the service be replaced by a smart automated interface with human help on hand if needed? Could travel agents take on some kind of role in this? They have the office spaces already available; they have the web access; they know where to go looking on the internet etc. The question is how they would monetise it to cover staff costs? How about a pound-a-pop five-minute session for a local search from a tiny booth provided by the local authority? Add the revenue from booking commissions and it could be a reasonable summer job for a little team of savvy internet users.

READ MORE: Where are the VisitScotland centres that will close? See the full list

Can some of the new tourist tax be used to fund/subsidise offices and booths in busy tourist centres? I imagine most of the big hotels will be taking on this role as well. The few “front aspects” VisitScotland show of their iCentres on the website seem quite large operations. Some seem to have already diversified into tourist shops selling local wares. Are these shops closing down? If they are, why? Are the shops not being run in a way that makes them even break even? Who is choosing their stock? Is it fancy overpriced up-market nonsense that appeals to a very small client group? Your choice is a £2 keyring or a £200 piece of craft pottery? Is this really a failure of management strategy?

If VisitScotland’s “market share” of information provision has dropped from 60% down to 6% then the cost of providing the service makes no economic sense. And if that is the relative figure (it isn’t, I just made it up to help make the point), it means that folks are getting that other 94% from other sources. This would not indicate there was great demand for the service. It also means that if the 6% really need the information, they can probably look in the same place as the 94% found it. Much ado about nothing?

Alistair Potter

I CAN see both sides to this. On the one hand, VisitScotland’s argument makes sense. Tourists are increasingly planning trips online, using platforms like TikTok and YouTube for inspiration, and then booking tours and accommodation through travel websites. A digital-first approach allows VisitScotland to target these travellers early on in their decision-making process and convince them to choose Scotland as a destination.

READ MORE: UK Government urges U-turn on VisitScotland iCentre closures

However, there’s also a valid concern about accessibility. While many people can easily access travel information online, visitors with disabilities may require in-person assistance that physical information centres provide. This could include anything from help planning an accessible itinerary to finding wheelchair-friendly accommodation. In its press release, VisitScotland mentioned working with local stakeholders to discuss “local arrangements.” This could potentially mean partnering with local businesses or organisations to provide some level of in-person support for disabled visitors, even after the physical information centres close. Yes, strive to improve the services and modernise, but don’t leave the most vulnerable behind who have just as every right to see how wonderful Scotland is.

James Murphy

YOU are going on holiday, you look up info online but when you arrive in a foreign city, you head to the tourist office to get a map, usually free, and ask any questions you have. Why does Scotland want to be different and shut down all its tourist information offices? Even in these days of the internet there is no substitute for a friendly person with direct knowledge when you arrive somewhere new. Younger people I have asked agree. It also gives the first impression of a country and its people. Sometimes you have to think that Scotland shoots itself in the foot!

Susan Grant