A COUNCIL decision to close Weymouth’s Tourist Information Centre has caused outrage among tra-ders and residents.
The TIC, based in the Pavilion, is set to close at the end of May with investigations into other ways to deliver visitor information.
This could include services operated from the council offices, partnerships with businesses and using an existing website.
Councillor Ian Bruce, spoke-sman for tourism and culture for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, said the final decision will be made at a meeting of the management committee in April.
He said: “You can’t consult the public on every single decision and there has been an online survey on the TIC.
“All channels will be explored but that may not mean the council employing people for a face-to-face office.”
It comes as part of a cost-cutting decision by borough councillors to hand the Pavilion over to the community to run, releasing it from local authority control.
The Portland TIC is also set to close in September 2013.
Coun Bruce added: “The budget has reduced by £100,000; what we do with the physical presence will be decided by the April meeting.
“I’m happy to take ideas and representations from people on this.
“I can’t say whether the TIC will move or not.
“I hear what people are saying and will try and come back with a package of measures.”
Weymouth TIC recorded 222,000 people through the door last year, equating to an estimated £1.3million additional spend. About a third came from residents.
TIC campaigner Barbara Howe raised more than 5,500 signatures to try and keep the TIC in its old spot on the seafront.
She said that losing the TIC is a ‘disaster’ and that many older people had no internet access.
Mrs Howe said: “The least they could do is install something in the library, which is central.
“I don’t see why Weymouth, as a tourism town, shouldn’t have a TIC when both Dorchester and Bournemouth have them.”
Co-ordinator of the Weymouth Business Improvement District (BID) Nigel Reed said there are plans for ‘Weymouth Wayfarers’, people on the streets providing information to visitors, similar to Olympic Ambassadors.
The BID would also have a town centre office providing information.
Mr Reed said: “The BID would pick up aspects of what the TIC does but it wouldn’t take it over.”
More information about the future alternative arrangements for the TIC will be made available in the coming weeks.
Exploring ‘a different way’
Councillor Ian Bruce said: “We’re particularly looking at the private sector and talking to the BID and looking at other commercial businesses.
“The council is not in any way trying to stop having information for tourists or promoting tourism but we’re exploring how we do that in a different way.”
He added: “The problem in the TIC is people going there for information and queuing behind someone buying bus season tickets. We need to learn from what happened during the Olympics when there was more electronic information available.”
Businesses and hoteliers
Dave Price, chairman of Weymouth and Portland Hoteliers and Guesthouse Leaseholders’ Association, said the decision has been made ‘without public consent’.
He claims this is evident from survey results published by the council which reveals that more than two thirds of residents and panel members asked disagreed with the closure.
Mr Price added: “Most people want the TIC to stay open so why did councillors vote against this?
“How can a town reliant on tourism not have a centre of information for tourists?
“It is something that affects all traders, hoteliers and businesses.
“I am completely outraged that this decision has not been made with public consent.”
Chris Bratchell, of the White Horse Holiday Park, said: “It seems very strange for a significant tourist resort like Weymouth not to have any form of tourist information centre, tourist office, anyone for ordinary visitors to contact. “What our council needs reminding of is that we’re in a competitive market.