Scotland’s tourism agency does nothing north of Inverness, two angry Highland councillors claimed yesterday.
They unleashed their wrath during a debate about a private tourism initiative which has backing from VisitScotland.
Members of Skye, Ross and Cromarty area committee praised the recently unveiled North Coast 500 project to establish a 500-mile round-Highland road trip to compete with America’s Route 66.
Veteran Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh councillor Biz Campbell applauded the project as “a breath of fresh air in an era in which tourism had lost its way following the demise of traditional local tourist information centres”.
She said: “As local offices have closed there’s been a decline in membership of the tourist board (VisitScotland) because they didn’t think they were getting value for money.”
After the council meeting, she added: “The public have no faith in them. They don’t feel they are doing their job. As a result, people don’t pay VisitScotland the subscriptions they previously did.
“People used to have local tourist boards who directed visitors to local accommodation and visitor facilities. Now, everybody just gets diverted to a website.”
Mrs Campbell also criticised Highland Council policy which, she claimed, did little to make up for the alleged shortfall in promoting the area’s tourism, in particular the sign posting of tourist attractions.
Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Margaret Paterson said: “VisitScotland appear to have forgotten that the traffic comes over the Kessock Bridge. It seems to stop there, and has a negative effect on the whole area over the bridge.”
Retired postmaster Roger Cundiff of the LochCarron Business Association, said: “We don’t get anything from VisitScotland. We’d prefer to get back to the days of having our own Wester Ross Tourist information, dealt with locally.”
Scott Armstrong, VisitScotland’s director for the Highlands, denied the claim that it does “nothing” to promote the region.
“We deliver economic success by showcasing this country on a global stage as a fantastic place to visit and in which to invest,” he said.
“Only last month, for example, we awarded Dornoch Area Community Investment Company £40,000 in match-funding from the VisitScotland Growth Fund for its Discover Dornoch tourism drive, while the World Sheepdog Trial in Tain and the Clan Mackenzie International Gathering in Strathpeffer were just two of the events that benefited from funding during the Year of Homecoming Scotland 2014.
“We have also been delighted to promote North Coast 500 via our expansive national and international PR and social media channels.
“The Highlands and islands are a jewel in Scotland’s tourism crown, and will continue to play a key role in VisitScotland’s marketing activity.”