Businesses in Kelso are joining forces in an effort to fill the gap that will be left by the closure of the town’s tourist information centre next week.
More than a dozen businesses in and around the town, all members of the Visit Kelso group, have agreed to become VisitScotland information partners and offer advice to tourists.
VisitScotland hopes that new network of 15 iKnow-accredited partners, as they are known, will help replace the its iCentre in Kelso Town Hall now facing the axe, as reported in the Southern last week.
A country clothing store, gift shop, café, pottery studio and pub are among the businesses that have signed up.
They are among more than 80 such partners across the Borders offering the benefit of their local knowledge to visitors to the region.
Visit Kelso secretary Nikki Allman said: “As a group of local business owners in Kelso and the surrounding area, we realise how important it is to share our local knowledge and insights with our visitors to help make sure they receive a warm welcome and make the most of what there is to see and do in the local area.
“We want our visitors to have a great time in this wonderful part of the country, and we are looking forward to continuing to ensure visitors enjoy a first-class experience.
VisitScotland regional director Paula Ward added: “Visit Kelso does an amazing job at attracting and offering a first-class experience to visitors of Kelso, and we are delighted to welcome the group to our VisitScotland information partner programme.
“It is well-deserved official recognition of the fantastic work that the group already undertakes to promote the local area.
“The programme is designed to allow those working within the tourism industry to become local ambassadors and help provide information, assistance and advice on all there is to see and do here.”
Kelso provost and community council chairman Dean Weatherston is unconvinced that the new arrangement will form an adequate replacement for the tourist information centre, however.
“While I understand the world is moving more towards technology to get our information, and VisitScotland’s figures are no surprise, I was disappointed they didn’t communicate with the community sooner so that different options could be explored,” he said.
“I personally feel there is still a need for a centralised information point, and I’ve already started speaking to people about a way that could be delivered.
“Sadly, yet again Kelso has been let down. Live Borders has stepped in at Hawick, but in Kelso we have just been encouraged to do it ourselves.
“While we will do this because we want our town to be successful, it’s very unfortunate that a town like Kelso, that has so much history and heritage, doesn’t have a museum or tourist information centre because of cuts, yet other towns have seen investment in their museums.”
VisitScotland provides its partners with signage, promotional material and information resources.
The businesses taking part include A Hume Country Clothing, cookware shop One Basket, Focal Point Furniture, the Kelso Pottery, Kelso Border Retreats, micropub Rutherfords, balloon supplier and cafe Seasons, the Cream Chimneys cafe, Borders Cookware and Swans Shoes.
Floors Castle, the Roxburghe Hotel, Kelso Holiday Cottages, Border Holiday Homes and Hendersyde Farm Cottages have also signed up as partners.
For more information, visit www.visitkelso.com or www.visitscotland.org