Suffolk Coastal: Business leaders’ fears over tourist information centre cuts

BUSINESS leaders last night raised serious concerns over potential cuts to tourist information centres in one of the county’s most popular districts.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Suffolk Coastal every year and contribute millions of pounds towards the area’s economy.

But as part of its efforts to find overall savings of �2m in the coming year the district council is reviewing its three tourist information centres (TICs) in Aldeburgh, Woodbridge and Felixstowe.

The authority has agreed to cut �30,000 from the service and is looking at how it can make changes - prompting fears the offices could reduce their opening hours or even close.

Last night a spokeswoman stressed that no final decisions had been made and that investment was focused elsewhere, such as internet marketing.

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But business chiefs in the towns have raised serious concerns about the effect the cuts could have.

Naomi Tarry, vice chairman of the Aldeburgh Business Association, said while it was unlikely the centre in the High Street would close they were worried about a potential reduction in opening hours and a downsizing of services.

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“A lot of tourism businesses in and around Aldeburgh really rely on the information centres - especially those that have passing trade,” she said. “What will happen to them in the future if they do not get those referrals?

“Aldeburgh must be a jewel in the crown in terms of tourist footfall. I believe the TIC gets something like 40,000 people coming through the door every year and deals with another 5,000 phone calls. Where will all these people get information from?

“A lot of people who come to Aldeburgh do not have internet access, not everyone plans holidays on-line.

“We understand the council have got to make budget cuts and we have great respect for the officers involved but we think this is rather opportunist.”

Marion Wells, Woodbridge town centre manager, said the TIC, which is next to the railway station, was used by visitors and residents alike.

“Any reduction to the service they offer will be detrimental,” she said. “We have worked hard to put Woodbridge on the map as a tourist destination. People coming to the town would expect to find a TIC up and running. A cut to the service would be very unfortunate.”

Andrew Rowdon, chairman of Felixstowe Chamber of Trade and Commerce, echoed the concerns for their TIC, which is in Undercliff Road West.

“I wouldn’t want there to be any reduction,” he said. “It’s invaluable to have that facility, otherwise how will people know what is available? The type of clientele we have visiting maybe just come for a day trip. For those visitors a TIC is incredibly important. They can just pop in and find out what is happening. They don’t necessarily have access to internet facilities.”

Last night a spokeswoman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said a review was on going and no decisions had yet been made on how the savings, which are about 11% of total TIC spending, will be achieved.

“Suffolk Coastal is committed to being both efficient and effective, so the ongoing review is also partly driven by the recognition that more and more of our potential TIC customers are seeking the information they want online, rather than just popping into one of our offices,” she added. “To help meet that increasing demand we are investing in internet marketing of our district as we clearly recognise the importance of tourism to our local economy.”

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