Debate on future of tourism information centres in Lowestoft and Southwold
- Credit: Nick Butcher
For many years, the tourist information centres (TICs) in Lowestoft and Southwold have played a vital role as the go-to place for tourists looking for shops, restaurants and hotels on their visits.
But now, in a sign of the changing times, both towns' TICs could be closed before this year's summer season.
Michael Ladd, Waveney District Council's cabinet member for tourism, said: 'The closure of the TICs has become necessary as the council is facing significant financial pressure.'
He added that despite trying to reduce TIC costs, the number of visitors using them had declined - perhaps not surprisingly, given the growth of the internet in recent years.
However residents have expressed concern about the closures, with John Perkins from the Southwold and Reydon Society saying: 'Closure would be a major blow to the local economy.
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'The office in Southwold is widely used and appreciated by visitors. It plays an important part in the life of the town and if it does close there must be an effective replacement, otherwise tourism and the local economy could suffer.'
The council has proposed asking businesses and voluntary organisations to create visitor information points (VIPs) - such as the one set up in Beccles Books, where tourism information is available in an existing shop or community facility.
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'Becoming a VIP will also increase footfall to local businesses and allow those businesses to take a proactive role in promoting all that their location has to offer,' Mr Ladd said.
Businessman Danny Steel, chairman of Lowestoft Vision business improvement district (BID) and a partner at Ganaden Properties, said: 'Maybe that's the challenge for the tourism industry in the town to see if there is a way to make it work.
'I'm sure there are volunteers who would help to do that.'
Southwold mayor Melanie Tucker said: 'This is clearly part of the cost-saving agenda at the district council.
'In some ways I'm not surprised they've made this decision because there probably is a move these days towards people gaining more information online.
'Nevertheless, there's quite a demand from visitors in the town - a lot of people do still expect there to be a tourist information facility in Southwold.'
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