THE UK Government has urged the Scottish Government to U-turn after VisitScotland announced the closure of all their information centres across the country.

The national tourism organisation said there have been significant changes to the way people plan holidays, with most using travel specialists and online resources including TikTok, YouTube and websites to research and book.

To adapt to this shift in behaviour, VisitScotland said it will invest its resources and expertise in a strategy designed to influence people as they make plans before setting off on their trip.

All 25 information centres – known as iCentres – will operate as usual until the end of September as part of a phased, two-year closure programme.

Scotland Office minister John Lamont, meanwhile, raised concerns about the decision.

He said: “The closure of all 25 VisitScotland tourist information centres across the country will be a blow to our towns and puts at a disadvantage the many thousands of tourists from the UK and beyond who use their services.

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

“While online tourism is growing, it is not available to all and these centres from Lerwick to Dumfries ensure vital information can be accessed by those tourists, particularly the elderly.

“I’d urge the Scottish Government to consider the impact this will have on local businesses and on visitors to areas where tourism is a huge part of the local economy.”

A total of 170 staff will be affected – 120 permanent workers and 50 seasonal employees.

VisitScotland said there will be no compulsory redundancies and staff have been offered a range of options including reskilling, redeployment and voluntary redundancy.

John Thurso, the VisitScotland chair, said: “The tourism landscape has changed significantly in recent years. The demand for iCentres has reduced while the demand for online information and booking has continued to grow.

“In order to continue building demand and growing the value of tourism and events, it is vitally important that we target channels we know visitors use to influence them to visit Scotland.

“Our research shows that as an organisation, we have a greater and more impactful role to play in providing information before visitors travel. Prioritising a digital-first model of information provision allows us to reach potential visitors at those early planning stages when we can shape their future travel decisions.

“Together with businesses and our partners, we want to build on success and ensure that across all areas of our work – marketing, destination development, business advice, insights and events – we prioritise the activities that will deliver for our industry and for Scotland.

“By evolving our work in this way, we will be able to invest in the activities that will accelerate sustainable growth in the visitor economy, helping create jobs, sustain communities and attract investment for the future.”

VisitScotland is currently engaging with stakeholders to discuss local arrangements.

It said the new strategy will target channels it knows visitors use to inspire and influence where they go, when they come and what they do, including promoting lesser-known destinations and quieter times of year.

It said tools using artificial intelligence are among the ways people now find and plan holiday experiences.

The organisation also said the role tour operators and travel agents can play in helping international visitors plan holidays to Scotland has become increasingly important, with almost two-thirds (64%) of international visitors to Scotland booking as part of a package.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:  “Decisions around how to best target resources and share information with visitors to Scotland are operational matters for VisitScotland. These proposals would bring VisitScotland into line with Visit England and Visit Wales, neither of which operate visitor centres.

"Importantly, VisitScotland will continue to engage with stakeholders and local businesses on this announcement.

“Tourism is an important sector of our economy. VisitScotland is key to promoting Scotland at home and abroad, supporting tourism businesses and maximising sustainable and responsible growth of the visitor economy.”