Inverness Tourist Information – controversy over seasonal closures

The Inverness Courier has recently published an article reflecting widespread local concern on VisitScotland’s decision to close the Inverness Tourist Office over both Christmas and New Year. With both these holiday periods being popular times for people to visit Inverness, there was general surprise that VisitScotland made the decision to make tourist information services unavailable to visitors over both Christmas and New Year.

The Inverness Guest House Association is the leading organisation for Inverness accommodation providers, and is the only group whose members have all been quality assessed by the 2 grading organisations (VisitScotland and the Automobile Association).

IGHA spokesman, Brad Norris, articulated the disappointment of the IGHA bed and breakfast association members when he stated: “Everyone is entitled to enjoy the festivities but they do not need to be closed for that length of time. For New Year we have a lot of people coming and not just from the UK. It seems ridiculous for VisitScotland to spend so much on advertising and promoting Inverness in Europe and around the world and then, when they have hooked the tourists, they close all the services.”

The centre closed early on Christmas Eve for the festive celebrations and remained closed yesterday. It will reopen today but will close early again on New Year’s Eve for a further four days.

Mr Norris said the Christmas closures were reasonable but added: “It is the New Year ones that are an issue. That covers all the days we have guests staying and then they will re-open when all the tourists have gone.”

City councillors shared the dismay of Inverness accommodation providers, and there was scepticism at VisitScotland’s claim that the Christmas-New Year period is a quiet time in Inverness. VisitScotland claimed to be unaware of the widely publicised Inverness Hogmanay Party, for which 10,000 visitors were expected.

Since publication of the Inverness Courier article, anecdotal evidence has demonstrated that the New Year period was extremely busy, with many Inverness B&Bs and guest houses, restaurants and pubs all reporting doing excellent business over Hogmanay and the surrounding days.

Following the Courier article, VisitScotland underwent a change of heart and made a last minute decision to open the Tourist Office between 10 and 3 on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 January. In spite of the end of the Hogmanay Festivities and the severe weather, the office still received around 130 visitors, most of whom were concerned about travel arrangements and weather conditions.

It is hoped that VisitScotland makes the decision to keep the Inverness Tourist Office open for the next winter holiday season, at least for the busy build up to Hogmanay, New Year’s Day and the days immediately following.