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
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
“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
“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.”