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Hebrides News


VisitScotland have investigated claims that its staff at Oban are allegedly running down the Western Isles.


Island businesses are outraged that tourism advisors have apparently told tourists to stock up on food and essentials before boarding the ferry, wrongly suggesting there are little or no facilities on Uist and Barra.


Venting their anger on social media, Hebridean shopkeepers pointed out the “tourist board would be shocked” to discover an “amazing” range of groceries, local produce, hardware, and gifts in over 20 independent local retail outlets from Barra to Berneray.


Add in the cafes, restaurants, accommodation, camp sites and cycle repair shops makes it “pretty impressive considering the size and population of our islands.”


The boss of South Uist mini-market, Lovats, Donna Hogg wrote: “I have just been told that Oban Tourist Board are advising people to do all their shopping in Tesco before going to Barra and Uist.


“These people are paid to promote our wonderful islands” instead of advising visitors not to spend money at their destination, she added.


She highlighted: “Independent local business need your support. We create jobs, improving our communities, keeping our economy alive and kicking.”


Benbecula councillor, Roddy Mackay tackled the tourism agency, saying it is “completely unacceptable.”


Shazza Cox who runs the Barra Airport café also complained to VisitScotand after “three people came into the café stating they were also told there was nowhere to eat or buy food on the islands.”


Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said: “VisitScotland should be promoting island businesses. I will be making enquiries about this.”


Annual tourist Christine Wood said the apparent attitude was “ridiculous.”


“I have never been stuck for anything, and I like to cook good food from scratch. On the contrary, the availability of high quality fresh food is a pleasure.”


Chrissie Davies of Shropshire was also annoyed: “We always buy local when visiting the beautiful Western Isles. Plenty of choice, fresh produce and helpful staff in all the shops, cafes and food producers we visit. Shame on Oban Tourist Board. Support and buy local.”


VisitScotland emphasised their Oban office diligently markets the Outer Hebrides and assists crowds of tourists to travel onward to Uist and Barra.


It wondered if a conversation between a tourist and an advisor was wrongly understood.


A VisitScotland spokesperson said: “VisitScotland is committed to supporting our stakeholders and industry partners in the Outer Hebrides and working closely with them to help them capitalise on growth opportunities for tourism and the visitor economy.


“We make every effort to ensure that our visitor services staff are able to provide accurate information regarding facilities at visitors’ destinations and can highlight the range of choices and quality of options available to them.”


We therefore immediately investigated the claim that incorrect or misleading information had been relayed.


“Having spoken to our team, we were unfortunately unable to ascertain whether any member of staff had indeed passed on incorrect information or whether any details provided may perhaps have been taken out of context or misinterpreted.”


Meanwhile, the tourism authority has “ensured that all of our team members are familiar” with the range of facilities available in the outer isles and are aware of the relevant websites which list details of local shops and services so that iCentre staff “are able to provide up-to-date, accurate information which conveys and promotes more effectively all that is on offer for visitors to enjoy across Benbecula, North and South Uist.


“This complaint should be taken in the context of 164,000 enquiries dealt with every year at the Oban iCentre, where our knowlegeable staff do a fantastic job promoting the area to tourists from around the world.”


Fury over shopping advice to tourists

18 July 2017