An innovative tourism advice service was launched yesterday in Lochgilphead.
The project’s supporters are promoting it as a solution to the gap in provision caused by VisitScotland‘s June 2011 decision to close and dispose of the town’s Visitor Information Centre in Lochnell Street.
The new Tourist Information Point initiative, opened formally yesterday by Argyll & Bute MSP Mike Russell, is the result of co-operation between Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance (HoATA), VisitScotland, and Argyll & Bute Council.
Mr Russell, who is the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “It is a great pleasure and privilege to be asked to open this much needed facility. But it is here not just because it is needed, but also because the local marketing group knew it was needed and showed great determination and enterprise in getting it established. I am glad that the various partners have come together to make it happen, because tourism is a vital industry for all of Argyll – including its heart! Making sure that those who come here are welcome and informed not only improves their stay but makes them want to come back.”
Present at the launch was Argyll & Bute Provost William Petrie, who said: “I am delighted to be part of the launch of the new…..Visitor Information Point in Lochgilphead. This innovative solution to visitor information has, in large part, been due to the work by the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance. Together with Fyne Tackle, they have shown how important it is for the public and private sectors to work together to achieve a shared ambition”.
Councillor Petrie, who chairs the Argyll & the Isles Strategic Tourism Partnership, added: “Tourism is extremely important to Argyll and Bute. Approximately fifteen percent of jobs in our area are tourism-related, and the innovative approach that’s been taken today shows how successful partnership working can be. Together, we make sure that not only do we deliver but (also that we) can sustain jobs in our area. I would like to wish the Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance and Fyne Tackle every success in this venture, and I am delighted that Argyll & Bute Council and VisitScotland were able to be a part of it.”
The Provost said he believes there is currently a tendency for visitors to avoid office-type tourist information resources, and that the new facility, with its ability to engage shoppers, will provide at least as much support for tourists as did the previous arrangement. He confirmed that Argyll & Bute Council has provided financial support to the new information point, and that it will continue to do so.
Fyne Tackle proprietor and HoATA member Archie MacGilp Snr welcomed the new project. He described how, since the closure of the Lochnell Street office, he has been “inundated” with people asking for information on where to go and what to see in the area. He is happy to share his own considerable knowledge of the landscape and the terrain, and believes that even relatively simple advice, such as where to see a good sunset, can be what “makes” a holiday for some visitors. Whilst welcoming the self-service nature of the new facility, Archie makes it clear that – shop business permitting – he will do his best to provide supporting advice where necessary.
Andrew Wilson, Vice-Chair of HoATA and owner of the Square Peg group of shops in Lochgilphead’s Colchester Square, said: “Since (HoATA) launched less than a year ago, we have been trying to raise awareness of the Heart of Argyll, and encourage as many local businesses as possible to get involved and work with us to promote the area. From today’s announcement, you can see that we’re not just about marketing or having a website; as a co-operative, we provide a strong combined voice for tourism businesses in the area. When we realised the (Tourist Information Centre) wasn’t going to reopen last spring, we were compelled to do something about it, and today the fruits of our efforts can be seen. Who better to offer this service than HoATA members – the MacGilp family at Fyne Tackle – who know this area like the back of their hands?”
Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance, whose official launch took place in March 2011, describes itself as a co-operative, comprising local tourism businesses working together to better promote the area to visitors. Its members and supporters work, on a voluntary basis, to raise awareness of the area among its target audiences and to grow tourism.
The organisation describes the Heart of Argyll as the area known as Mid-Argyll, loosely bounded by Ardfern, Inveraray, Tarbert, Loch Fyne, and the Sound of Jura. It incorporates some of the most scenic parts of Scotland’s west coast, from the picturesque fishing village of Tarbert in the south, to Loch Craignish in the north, to Kilberry, Knapdale and Crinan in the west, and to Inveraray in the east.