Fears over Upper Deeside tourist info centres

TOURIST TRAP: Braemar Highland Games sees hundreds of visitors arrive in the village each year.
TOURIST TRAP: Braemar Highland Games sees hundreds of visitors arrive in the village each year.
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Tourist Information centres in Ballater and Braemar could see their opening hours slashed and staff cut in proposed moves.

The changes could see staffing at the Ballater centre reduced and Braemar’s info centre closed for the winter months.

Concerns over the proposed changes have been highlighted by local politicians.

Sir Robert Smith MP for West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine has written to VisitScotland to raise his concerns over proposed cutbacks at information centres in the area.

He said: “I am particularly concerned with the proposal to cut Braemar to a summer only operation. This is traditionally a tourist town and any cut backs in services for tourist may well have a negative effect on local businesses and the community.

“I have also asked for more details as to why they are considering a staff cut at the Ballater centre which had almost 27,000 visitors last year.

“I think it is important for local businesses to take part in any consultation that may arise. The Noth-east in general has a great potential to become a tourist hub and I think it obviously sends out the wrong message to visitors to see a centre close.”

Braemar Councillor Geva Blackett also raised concerns about the possible reduction the village’s centre: “There are lots of exciting projects going on in Braemar to attract tourists to our remote community - St. Margaret’s church is to become the centre for the performing arts with renowned fiddler Paul Anderson running an international master class here, a new bridge across the Dee is in the pipeline affording visitors access to a wider range of walks in the area,

Kindrochit Castle is to receive a facelift, with all that is going on at community run Braemar castle and many other activities for visitors including of course the world renowned Braemar Gathering, it is vital that Braemar, totally dependant on tourism for income and jobs, has a facility where visitors can find out what is happening here or where to go for a walk, find a B&B or even the best place for a dram! We need this facility

52 weeks of the year and we need the local job that goes with it. The footfall demonstrates that.

I have discussed the issue with the Head of Economic Development at Aberdeenshire Council and will certainly be urging the council to take this position when the matter comes before us next month.”

The Government agency in charge of the running of the centres said however that “there are no firm plans to implement any changes”.

A spokesperson for VisitScotland said: “VisitScotland in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council recently carried out a full review of the visitor information provision across the region. The results, options and recommendations of this review have been put forward for consideration and discussion to the Aberdeenshire Area Committees over the next few weeks.

“It is important to stress that at this stage there are no firm plans to implement any changes to future operations at any of the Aberdeenshire VICs. We are looking at all options in partnership with the local authority and full consultation will carried out in due course with the industry and stakeholders.