VisitScotland to create flagship tourism centre to capitalise on Royal Mile

VisitScotland is to move its long-running visitor centre from a site off Princes Street. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
VisitScotland is to move its long-running visitor centre from a site off Princes Street. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.
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Part of Edinburgh’s historic City Chambers is to become Scotland’s flagship tourism information centre to capitalise on the number of visitors flooding into the Royal Mile.

VisitScotland is to move its long-running visitor centre from a site off Princes Street to a state-of-the-art facility on the Royal Mile, opposite the headquarters of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The switch is expected over the next few months after the government agency struck a deal with the city council to use part of the building 
before it was put on the open market.

An official report for councillors reveals that VisitScotland has decided its visitor centre, which has been based for decades on the roof of Waverley Mall, is “no longer fit for purpose”.

The council is set to receive £100,000 a year over the next decade by hiring out part of an existing “advice shop” on the High Street.

VisitScotland’s move has emerged less than a year after it announced the closure of nearly two thirds of its tourist centres across Scotland, citing a 58 per cent drop in footfall over the previous decade.

It pledged to spend around £10 million on a two-year programme to step up digital promotional activity and overhauls for 26 “high-impact regional hubs”.

Its new visitor centre will sit on the other side of the City Chambers quadrangle from the Mary King’s Close visitor attraction, which was opened 15 years ago.

The site of the new visitor centre is just yards from where tourists can view the handprints of leading figures such as authors JK Rowling and Ian Rankin, cycling hero Sir Chris Hoy and boxing legend Ken Buchanan.

The report for councillors states: “Placing the property on the open market would result in offers from retail and leisure uses, which could potentially not align with the council’s occupation of the neighbouring City Chambers complex.

“Therefore, direct negotiations have taken place with VisitScotland, who will provide a new tourist information centre from the premises, which is considered to be a more compatible use.”

Alasdair Rankin, the council’s finance convener, said: “The Royal Mile is a hub of tourist activity and, as this building would not make good retail space, we have agreed that offering VisitScotland a lease at market value would be the most appropriate use of this site.

“I’m sure having a visitor centre in such a prominent and historic part of the city will be welcomed by tourists 
visiting from all over the world.”