A new programme encouraging tourism businesses in Lochboisdale and South Uist to provide inspirational local information to visitors is to be introduced.
The national tourism organisation is launching its VisitScotland Information Partner (VIP) programme in the Outer Hebrides.
Quality Assured businesses across the tourism industry - including accommodation providers, visitor attractions and transport providers - will be encouraged to work with VisitScotland to provide face-to-face local information within their own premises.
This approach follows the announcement that Lochboisdale VisitScotland Information Centre will not reopen due to staff resource issues.
This new programme will ensure exceptional information provision remains available for visitors to the area over the busier summer months.
It also reverses the historical trend of having to locate a single source of information and places inspirational local information at the forefront of as many businesses as possible, thus improving the visitor experience and ensuring that local spend and time spent is maximised.
VisitScotland is in discussions with its partners and a number of stakeholders to ensure it secures the long-term solution for information provision in the area.
The national tourism organisation is also providing support to the local communities of South Uist and the wider area by diversifying and reacting to consumer demands.
The VIP programme has been developed to recognise and support the great effort businesses across all sectors already undertake to bring the Spirit of Scotland to life and help visitors make the most of their stay.
The stunning islands which make up the Outer Hebrides are a magnet for tourists, especially during the summer months, with 114,000 trips being taken by British visitors in 2014.
Tourism creates 900 jobs and contributes over £43m to the region’s economy, demonstrating that it is much more than just a holiday experience.
Earlier this year, VisitScotland launched its biggest ever global campaign and social movement – Spirit of Scotland.
It is built on extensive research that shows that people think Scotland has a unique spirit – whether it’s the magic of the landscapes or the warmth of the people.
The Outer Hebrides has its own ScotSpirit, with breathtaking landscapes, friendly locals and fun experiences at every turn.
Anyone visiting the islands this summer is being encouraged to share their experience of the Spirit of Scotland through #ScotSpirit and in doing so, become part of a special movement with social, economic and charitable aims.
The Outer Hebrides is also popular with ‘set-jetters’ – people inspired to visit a location after seeing it on film or television.
Most recently, the Shiant Isles, off Lewis, feature in ‘The BFG’ (Big Friendly Giant), which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month.
It is hoped the stunning views seen in the BFG by audiences around the world will inspire even more people to discover – or rediscover – these magical places for themselves.
VisitScotland is continually reviewing its VisitScotland Information Centres and the way in which information is provided across the whole of Scotland, to ensure these facilities function effectively and meet the changing needs of visitors.
Digital media is revolutionising the way visitors engage with Scotland and the industry is responding to this change.
VisitScotland has recently refreshed and relaunched its website, making it fully responsive and optimised for mobile devices, with all content translated into five European languages.
VisitScotland is confident that information provision in Lochboisdale and South Uist will be extended across the many experiences available to visitors in the area and is working closely with all providers to ensure that this is the case.
Alan MacKenzie, VisitScotland Islands Manager, said: “Whilst it is regrettable that Lochboisdale VIC will not reopen in this location due to staff resource challenges, it does not mean that the area will be without visitor information provision – far from it.
“We are working closely with local stakeholders to ensure that information provision is exceptional for people coming to the Outer Hebrides, particulary in the highest footfall months of July and August .
“Our new VisitScotland Information Partnership programme will ensure that all tourism providers can be local ambassadors and help provide information, assistance and advice on all there is to see and do here.”