Councillors have expressed regret at “deplorable” continued problems with VisitScotland’s operation of the tourist office in Lerwick.
In March the SIC decided to ditch VisitScotland and go it alone with a new organisation, Promote Shetland, but the changeover will not be completed until later this year and there have been staffing troubles which have led to irregular office opening hours in the meantime.
At Thursday’s development committee meeting chairman Josie Simpson said change “does not happen overnight” but emphasised that tourist chief Andy Steven was doing a “magnificent job in the circumstances”.
Councillor Caroline Miller, who has been appointed as the council’s representative on a steering group for Promote Shetland, said VisitScotland was simply “not fulfilling their contract”.
She said: “I’m now so glad that we’re actually going down this route of promoting Shetland ourselves, because I think it shows the disregard that the main organisation has for these islands. It’s just deplorable and the only disappointment I have in this is that we’re only going to be able to introduce this new organisation later on this year.”
A report from economic development official Neil Henderson voiced concern at the tourist information centre having been closed during normal opening hours recently, which VisitScotland said was due to internal staffing issues.
The office was also closed when a group of 28 tourists arrived on NorthLink last Saturday, leading to Island Trails tour guide Elma Johnson having to gather them up in her van and take them to find accommodation, which they had not booked prior to travelling. She said: “They were very surprised that the office was shut but were glad of the welcome they got in Shetland.”
VisitShetland manager Andy Steven said that he was not aware of the visitors’ plight but the opening hours were in the process of being altered.