The Highlands’ five VisitScotland tourist information centres will reopen their doors before the end of the month to welcome back visitors with the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The iCentres are a significant part of the community and the national tourism organisation is looking forward to opening their doors, alongside tourism businesses across Scotland, to provide that warm welcome for which they are known.
The centres in Inverness, Portree, Ullapool and Aviemore will reopen on Monday, April 26, and the Fort William iCentre will reopen on Thursday, April 29.
Aviemore’s iCentre, in the town’s Grampian Road, has recently been refurbished – this project had been scheduled for completion last year but has now had a refreshed internal and external upgrade.
The new public area is bright, welcoming and engaging and stunning local imagery has been included to inspire visitors to the area to see and do more during their visit.
VisitScotland has worked closely with partners at the Cairngorms National Park as part of the refurbishment and their imagery has also been represented within the iCentre – giving the visitor a true sense of place.
The iCentre team will be on hand to help visitors responsibly enjoy the area when tourism reopens and to share information on hidden gems and assist in linking visitors with local tourism businesses. Incorporated within the main visitor area is a dedicated space with a great selection of retail products for visitors to browse.
Like much of the industry, staff have had to adapt to new ways of working through this second lockdown. The iCentre and information teams have continued to provide information and inspiration through a range of other channels, including a Messenger service developed during the first lockdown, the iCentre telephone service and an email service.
They remain on hand to offer advice to visitors travelling around not only the Highlands but right across Scotland and they can also advise and answer questions on current travel restrictions.
The iCentres not only provide valuable visitor information but also stock a fantastic selection of gifts and souvenirs, created by Shop Local suppliers. Officially launched in May 2017, around 300 local crafters have since joined the retail initiative, which has now been rolled out across the country, offering the opportunity for businesses, craft makers, artists and designers in local communities to promote and sell their products to visitors via the VisitScotland iCentre network.
The initiative is aimed not at the already-established Scottish designers but at regional artisans without a real retail platform. It has been developed to provide a unique sales channel for small businesses producing Made in Scotland products, offering visitors the chance to take an authentic, locally-produced piece of Scotland home with them.
There are 35 Highland-based Shop Local suppliers, including the award-winning Kilted Fudge, a small family run Aviemore-based business; Inverness-based Darach whisky barrel products and furniture, whose range of gifts has been made from vintage oak whisky barrels; Hairy Coo, who produce a range of handmade cow and sheep keyrings, brooches and fridge magnets, hand-wrapped in colourful dyed wool which are available in 16 iCentres; and Tain Pottery, who have a beautiful range of ceramics hand painted and inspired by Scotland, which are stocked in the Inverness and Aberfoyle iCentres.
Chris Taylor, VisitScotland’s regional leadership director, said: “The iCentre in Aviemore, which is such an important hub and source of information for our visitors – now looks much more welcoming and attractive.
“I am delighted we are also representing our partners – the Cairngorms National Park – within the branding and I hope the beautiful imagery used within the centre will encourage people to stay longer and experience more of our wonderful Highland locations and attractions.
“The iCentre is an important part of the town and we are keen to work with other tourism businesses locally to ensure that returning visitors receive a warm welcome and really get to see the best sites and attractions the region has to offer.
“Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social benefits in every corner of Scotland, enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who takes a holiday and it’s more important than ever this year to support the local tourism sector. Everyday our iCentre staff are inspiring the local community and visitors to rediscover the amazing experiences they can have on their doorsteps.”