TOURISM in Battle has been dealt a bitter blow this week with news the town’s Tourist Information Centre is to be downgraded.
Earlier this year, Rother District Council announced plans to have one ‘hub’ TIC in either Battle, Rye or Bexhill, with smaller satellite offices based at the other two locations.
But despite Battle boasting one of the most important sites of historical significance in the country, Rother has decided the hub will be based at Rye.
Tourism South East (TSE) will run the Rye Tourist Information Centre, which will remain in its current location in Lion Street.
The satellite point at Battle will provide literature and customers with information about the area.
At a minimum, it will include an information racking service and a dedicated phone line to the hub tourist information centre for accommodation and ticket bookings.
The locations for the two satellite information points and local information points are still to be decided, but Rother says they will be based in existing businesses, where a member of staff will be trained to man the satellite.
Rother has suggested the Battle satellite could be based at The Almonry, Battle Abbey or Yesterday’s World.
But Battle Town Council chairman, Cllr Ron Harris, has said The Almonry could not accommodate it and he understood that English Heritage, which owns Battle Abbey and runs the town’s existing TIC, did not want to take it on.
The Battle and District Chamber of Commerce has expressed dismay at the decision to downgrade the Battle TIC.
Dale Cromwell, president of the Chamber, said: “This is a massive disappointment.
“In business, money begets money and, although Rother are saving money on tourism, by having a hub and satellites instead of dedicated TIC’s, the loss in tourism revenue will far exceed the savings made by Rother in this regard.”
A number of other tourist information points are being planned for village across rural Rother.
The new contract will commence on April 1, 2012.
The Rye hub TIC will be open seven days a week throughout the year, providing literature, face-to-face customer service and accommodation bookings.
Peter Colling, operations director for Tourism South East said: “We are delighted to be awarded the contract for delivering visitor information services in Rother district.
“Rye Tourist Information Centre has been a great success and we want to build on this to create a district wide network of information services serving the needs of visitors and residents, wherever they are.
“We want the service to encourage visitors to stay longer and spend more for the benefit of the whole economy.”
Cllr Martin Kenward, Rother District Council member culture, leisure and tourism said: “We are delighted to award the contract to Tourism South East.
“They have done a wonderful job in their Rye office and have worked successfully in a similar format elsewhere in the South East
“We are confident that within the budget allocated for this service that this new contract will provide a high standard of customer service to people visiting the Rother area and will complement our extremely successful Visit 1066 Country website.”