‘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
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ROTHER District Council have been accused of putting ‘the final nail in the coffin’ of tourism services in Battle, Rye and Bexhill.

After slashing the budget for the service from £65,000 to just £30,000, just one tenderer came forward to take over the service in 2015.

The brochure delivery company, which is based more than 100 miles away, said it could provide three Tourist Information Points (TIPs) within host businesses in the three towns and a network of Local Information Points for £7,000 under budget.

But the offer, which was accepted by the council earlier this month, does not offer any connection with visitors by telephone, internet or face-to-face.

Concerned councillors, Sue Prochak (Salehurst), Kathryn Field (Battle Town) and Paul Lendon (Bexhill St Stephens) wanted the Cabinet to review this decision as they say that more local businesses would have made an offer if they had known that RDC was going to accept a reduced service.

But on Wednesday, the decision was upheld, heralding the end of Rother’s Tourist Information Centres.

Cllr Sue 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.

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

David Furness, chairman of the Battle Arts & Music Festival, said the decision would harm events across Rother.

He said: “The closure of the TIC is a major blow to the Battle Arts and Music Festival.

“The TIC has been key for us in providing publicity, attracting audiences and providing ticket Box Office facilities.

“Many of our audiences live outside the area and rely on the TIC to find accommodation and locate other local attractions.

“The closure will not just affect us, but the whole of the 1066 Country region, which relies enormously on tourism.

“I sincerely hope that it is still not too late to have a TIC in Battle. I hope that Rother Council will talk to interested parties in Battle to find out how we could provide similar services in our town.”

Liz Honey, director of Battle’s Saffron Gallery, added her voice to those criticising the decision.

She said: “I’m staggered to hear of the decision to close the region’s only TIC, which will undoubtedly have an adverse effect on many businesses in the area.

“Despite its base outside Battle, TIC staff have referred many visitors to our exhibitions, which can also have a positive knock-on effect on other businesses in the town.

“Very often our visitors will take time to consider a purchase over lunch, or coffee, or a stroll around the shops.

“Statutory service or not, 1066 Country relies on tourism to prosper and the TIC’s friendly and professional service can’t be replicated by a leaflet rack.

“This is a very short-sighted decision which will surely have unwelcome consequences.”

A Rother District Council 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 to our district will still be able to find out all the information they need about our historic towns and villages.”