Efforts to boost Lanark’s tourist trade have been dealt a body blow by the announcement that the town’s visitor information centre is to close next month after over 30 years in operation.
The national tourism agency VisitScotland closed down its companion centres in Biggar and Abington several years ago, and there will now be no such facility for future visitors to Clydesdale or the rest of South Lanarkshire.
The agency claims that that the numbers using the Lanark information centre in the past decade have fallen by two-thirds, with people increasingly accessing local visitor attraction information via the internet.
The announcement will leave totally vacant the South Lanarkshire Council-owned block in the Horsemarket the centre shares with already-closed public toilets.
The Gazette understands that the town’s community development trust is regarding this week’s announcement of the building’s vacancy as an opportunity, although there seems to be no solid plan yet for re-use of the block.
The closure announcement brings to an end a 1970s experiment in local tourism promotion led by Lanarkshire business figures, including the late Arthur Bell, of Biggar, creating a Clyde Valley Tourist Board and opening facilities such as the Lanark centre with the co-operation of the then Clydesdale District Council.
Over the years, the local tourism agency was taken over by the then Scottish Tourist Board, VisitScotland’s predecessor, and there have long been complaints that the national authority concentrated its efforts on attracting tourists to Edinburgh and Glasgow, with promoting Clydesdale’s attractions made a secondary objective.
This week, those same critics were pointing to the centre closure as evidence they were right.
One Lanark area South Lanarkshire councllor, Conservative Richard Elliot Lockhart, is calling on the council to take over the running of the centre and reopen the adjoining toilets.
He stated: “I am very sad to hear this news. Not only can’t you go to the toilets, but you won’t even be able ask where the nearest one is.
“It’s all very well quoting figures showing a drop in people going to these centres, but what about older people or tourists who are less internet-savvy? Also what about the advantage of a friendly face and human contact? VisitScotland is only interested in attracting foreign visitors to Edinburgh and Glasgow.”