A new approach to strengthen visitor information availability in the Outer Hebrides has been launched this season by VisitScotland and Outer Hebrides Tourism.
The national tourism body and the local destination management organisation have worked together to offer visitors to the Outer Hebrides a wide-range of easily accessible options to obtain information about the local area.
The approach recognises both the changing ways visitors seek information and the unique nature and geography of the islands.
The former iCentre in Tarbert on the Isle of Harris is now home to retailer, Essence of Harris, and the former iCentre in Lochboisdale is home to Uist Gifts.
These have joined with six other island businesses to form a network of eight “Welcome Points” for visitors, providing local expertise and knowledge. The network runs from Spors Nis, in the North of Lewis, to Vatersay Hall in the South.
All Welcome Points have received display kits – including maps, noticeboards and leaflet racks – and will have free Wi-Fi available to visitors. Staff have also benefitted from dedicated customer service training.
VisitScotland has recruited an iKnow Support Assistant, based on Uist, who will support the Welcome Points.
The Welcome Points are a new addition to VisitScotland’s national network of iKnow Partners (formerly known as the VIP programme), which includes more than 100 in the Outer Hebrides.
The iKnow Partners are a mixture of individual attractions, accommodation providers and restaurants which provide local expertise and information for visitors.
The Welcome Points are:
Spòrs Nis, Ness, Lewis (end of Hebridean Way)
Essence of Harris, Tarbert, Harris
Borrisdale Tweed, Leverburgh, Harris
Claddach Kirkibost Centre, North Uist
MacGillivrays Souvenir and Gift Shop, Balivanich, Benbecula
Uists Gifts, Lochboisdale, South Uist
Buth Bharraigh, Castlebay, Barra
Vatersay Hall, Vatersay (start of Hebridean Way)
The introduction of Welcome Points is part of a broader range of information available to visitors.
Outer Hebrides Tourism has created “Pit Stops” – a selection of accommodation providers, shops, cafes, visitor centres and bike transfer companies – to support visitors attempting the Hebridean Way on foot or by bike, where they can rest and refuel, as well as plan the next step of their journey.
VisitScotland is currently looking to enhance the information provision at the Stornoway iCentre and there is a higher profile of the Outer Hebrides in mainland VisitScotland iCentres such as Ullapool, Oban, Portree and Inverness.
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “Innovative approaches are needed to grow the visitor economy and it is through successful collaboration with Outer Hebrides Tourism that we have been able to create this bespoke approach which reflects the changing habits of visitors whilst recognising the unique nature of the Outer Hebrides.
“Everything we do is about creating a passion for Scotland - building an army of advocates through innovative marketing, partnership, events and business excellence to create a destination and customer experience worth talking about.”
Rob McKinnon, Chief Executive of Outer Hebrides Tourism said: “Our visitors tell us the insider tips they get from locals help make their holiday on the Outer Hebrides.
“We selected the businesses not just as sources of information, but where visitors will receive the warmest of Hebridean welcomes. I’d like to thank the businesses that have committed to hosting the Welcome Points in their businesses to give our visitors the best possible experience of the islands.