The ‘final nail in the coffin’ for tourism service

The Tourist Information Centre in Lion Street, Rye
The Tourist Information Centre in Lion Street, Rye

Any hope of a Visitor Information Centre in Bexhill, Battle or Rye has been quashed after Rother District Council has been accused of putting ‘the final nail in the coffin’ for tourism.

Having slashed the tourism budget from £65,000 to £30,000 Rother District Council (RDC) decided not to have a Tourist Information Centre (TIC) anywhere in the locality. Instead, from 2015, the area’s tourism budget will be in the hands of the only tender to come forward with a bid - a brochure delivery company based over 100 miles away.

The company said it could provide three Tourist Information Points (TIPs) within host businesses in the three towns along with a network of Local Information Points for £7,000 under budget.

But the offer, which RDC accepted, does not include any connection with visitors by telephone, internet or face-to-face which has angered concerned councillors Sue Prochak, Kathryn Field and Paul Lendon. They wanted RDC Cabinet to review their decision and say they were reliably informed that more local businesses would have made an offer if they had known that RDC was going to accept a reduced service.

But at a recent RDC meeting the decision was upheld, heralding the end of Rother’s TIC’s.

Cllr Prochak said: “It is really regrettable that we will now have no visitor information point. Tourism is worth £240 million per annum in our local economy and as many as 4,000 full-time jobs rely on tourism. Who is going to answer emails, the telephone or make bookings? The only concession is that we can review this decision in six months.”

She added: “This decision is hardly good value for money. I really question whether this is the way to support the visitor economy, which the Council pledged to do.”

Cllr Lendon said he rejects Rother’s decision. “This has not been properly debated and is not a good idea. We need a physical TIC in the town. I am against the way this has been handled. Tourism needs much more debate.”

Defending the decision, a RDC spokesman said: “The tourism service tender was agreed by Cabinet and ratified by our Overview and Scrutiny Committee. There will still be visitor information points at host businesses in Bexhill, Battle and Rye as well as local information points across the district. Visitors will still be able to find out all the information they need about our historic towns and villages.”

Stewart Drew, Director and Chief Executive of the De La Warr Pavilion (DLWP) said there are many ways of attracting tourists. “The DLWP and its partners in Bexhill and East Sussex recognise the importance of tourism to the local economy and invest in alternative ways of bringing visitors into the region. National press coverage for our Chermayeff exhibition and the Coastal Cultural Trail between the Towner Eastbourne, DLWP and Jerwood Hastings is part of a bigger ambition to work in promoting cultural tourism and local businesses.

“Big events such as the Roaring 20s day, Bexhill Motofest and the Bexhill Festival of the Sea, and the family-friendly reputation of our beautiful seafront brings thousands of visitors to the town and the DLWP is always on hand to help visitors.”