Council Could End Tourist Information Service By November

tourist information centre flagScilly could lose its Tourist Information Centre at the end of October if another organisation doesn’t come forward to take it on.

On Thursday, councillors will be asked to back a proposal by the Economic Development Team to end the Council-run service. The debate will be taking place behind closed doors, without the press or public present.

In the report, members are being reminded that they backed the Blue Sail tourism strategy in 2011. At the time, the consultants recommended one single body covering all aspects of tourism.

Recently the Council has been keen to diversify our economy away from tourism. A significant new Economic Development Department has been formed with six staff.

This proposal, if backed by members, will end decades of the Council’s support for tourism.

What’s Your View?

The authority has run a TIC continuously at four sites since 1988, when staff moved into the former Schiller Shelter. And before that, tourism services were offered at the Town Hall front desk.

Although councillors and some senior management were sent the written proposal last week, TIC employees were only informed about the plan yesterday afternoon after Radio Scilly informed the Town Hall that we intended airing the story today as a matter of public interest.

The Council is banking on a third-party taking on the TIC after November 1st. The operation will be put out to tender on a 12-month contract and we understand that a ‘peppercorn’ rent will be offered for the use of the Schiller Shelter.

Last month, Islands’ Partnership Chairman Chris Gregory said that the IP “has no interest whatsoever in taking over the shelter or doing anything other than trying to promote Scilly.”

Yesterday, Chris confirmed that the IP had not been consulted on the detail of the Council report but they were “looking at a number of broader issues for the future of visitor services.”

In a statement, the Council says they haven’t discussed their TIC exit strategy with the IP because, “any potential transfer of Tourism Information Services will be initiated by a tendering process. That means there can be no dialogue or correspondence which could influence the outcome.”

Back in June 2013, Council Chairman Amanda Martin called for a “proper, careful analysis” of the responsibilities of the TIC. She said that there had to be a “proper conversation” between the Council, the Partnership and the members of the public who use it. However, that doesn’t appear to have happened yet.

The TIC is well used. The latest figures from June reveal that over 8,000 people called into the Porthcressa shelter during the month.

Visitors were full of praise for the service and its staff yesterday and they all felt that the TIC should be retained.

Whether or not we have a TIC after October will become clearer over the next month. The Council report says that if no bidders come forward, they will review “other options.”

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