Skift Take

Scotland sees itself as a content creator and curator for tourists, not an information provider anymore.

Tourists who need help in Scotland won’t be able to turn to a visitor information center: Visit Scotland is shutting down its 25 locations across the country over the next two years.

Scotland is instead investing more in content creation on its website, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, and other digital channels, said Vicki Miller, director of marketing and digital for Visit Scotland.

“Our greatest opportunity to have the greatest influence on people coming to Scotland, stay longer, spend more, to [get to] things off the beaten track is to get that information to the visitor before they get here,” she said. “We’re putting a greater emphasis on pre-arrival.”

Scotland wants to make its content more easily discovered and promoted on social media channels, online travel agencies, and Google, which recently added a tool that creates custom trip itineraries based on prompts from users. 

As more travelers use TikTok and YouTube for their searches, Visit Scotland wants to enhance its video production quality, partner with more content creators and encourage more user generated content.

“We’ve just got to continue to be flexible and agile as channels evolve,” said Miller.

Pandemic Accelerated Scotland’s Digital-First Tourism Marketing Strategy

Not everyone is happy with the closures. “There are some members out there who are obviously disappointed at the decision because of the concerns around information provision through these centers,” said Marc Crothall, chief executive of Scottish Tourism Alliance. 

But times have changed and travelers aren’t using these taxpayer-funded centers anymore, he said.

Visit Scotland had already been moving to a digital-first strategy. Before the pandemic, Scotland had 126 information centers, and discussions to close the remaining 25 were put on hold. The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital.

Scotland has had a strong post-pandemic recovery. About 3.2 million international visitors came to Scotland and spent £3.2 billion ($4.1 million) through the third quarter of 2023, up 33% and 19% from 2022, respectively, according to Visit Scotland.

Information centers provide visitors maps, guides, souvenirs, tickets to attractions, and destination expertise.

Now, over 50% of U.S. travelers use social media, search engines or a hotel website for their trip planning, according to a Skift Research survey of over 1,000 American travelers in late 2023.

Source: Skift Research’s survey of over 1,000 U.S. travelers

Replacing the Tourist Information Offices in Rural Communities

Visit Scotland, the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and communities will be working together over the coming 12 to 18 months to figure out solutions to replace their centers, said Crothall.

Visit Scotland plans to transfer ownership of its offices to local communities. If communities aren’t interested, it will sell them off. Miller expects communities will step up to fill the service gap after information centers close.

After Visit Scotland closed its center in Loch Ness in a previous phase, the community bought and remade it into a profitable information and services hub.

“The upshot is that they now provide all sorts of other provisions, including luggage movement for [travelers on] walkers and other types of services and as well as the distribution of local sort of leaflets,” said Crothall.


Save this for your visit-list! 🙌 📍 Tea with Naughty Sheep, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park 📽 @Gem | Scottish Exploring | #Scotland #ScotlandDayOut #DayTripScotland #TripIdeas #TravelPlans2024 #VisitScotland #ScotlandTravel

♬ Chaotic classical music(930681) – nizimo

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Tags: ai, scotland, tiktok, tourism

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