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Business / Tourist office to close this year

Lerwick tourist office. Photo: Jim Mullay

NATIONAL tourism agency VisitScotland has announced that the Lerwick tourist office will close its doors permanently in November this year.

It came as a shock to many when the organisation announced in March this year that it would close its entire network of 25 information centres between September 2024 and March 2026 as part of a new strategy that would focus on promoting tourism digitally.

The move has been condemned by tourism operators in the isles who feel the iCentre at Lerwick Market Cross is a valuable part of the local sector.

Moves by the Shetland Tourism Association (STA) to take over the running of the information centre are ongoing.

In a short statement issued on Thursday VisitShetland said: “As you are aware, VisitScotland announced in March that we will close our network of information centres (iCentres) as part of a strategy designed to grow the visitor economy by influencing visitors in the planning stage of their trip, before they leave home.

“We are now in a position to update you regarding the date of the closure of Lerwick iCentre, which will be 18 November 2024.”

STA chair Amanda Hawick. Photo: Shetland News

STA chair Amanda Hawick said VisitScotland had not been willing to engage with stakeholders, but the organisation had been made aware that the closure of the Lerwick tourist office was likely to be happening in autumn of this year.

She said the STA has been “highly active” in finding a way forward, including notifying the owner of the building, Shetland Islands Council, that the association is interested in taking over the lease.

“Shetland Tourism Association still believes that the office continues as a hub for face-to-face contacts with tourists coming in,” she said.

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“It is unbelievable how a public organisation that is funded by the Scottish Government has so little understanding of working with its stakeholders and service that is being provided for Scotland.

“Shetland is a part of Scotland when it comes to funding, but clearly in their eyes the Highlands and Islands once again are being treated with complete contempt.”

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