Council’s First Attempt To Outsource TIC Fails

tourist information centre flag

The Council’s first attempt to outsource the Tourist Information Centre to the private sector has failed.

No organisations have expressed an interest in taking on the service, including the Islands’ Partnership.

Back in September, councillors backed the privatisation plan and a document consisting of over 60 pages of guidance was issued to interested parties.

The authority wants any new private operator to safeguard the public sector employment conditions of existing TIC staff.

But tourism business owners say the proposition just wasn’t appealing.

Clifford Freeman of Scilly Self Catering and Tim Guthrie of Come to Scilly both believe visitors value the TIC. But they say a greater subsidy is needed to attract private operators if the Council wants to maintain its performance expectations.

Potential operators were offered a yearlong contract and a subsidy of just over £40,000 to run the service

The Council’s own figures, revealed in their 2014-2015 budget book, suggest that the current TIC operation would cost £132,000 to run this year. They expect an income of £21,700 for the operation.

Tim says that privately run information centres do exist. He gives St Ives and Kingsbridge as examples, but says they benefit from income from merchandising. Offering souvenir sales here would be detrimental to other retailers and could be contentious.

The Islands’ Partnership issued a statement this morning saying that their directors decided that the IP was not in a position to submit a tender on the basis of the contract that was available.

They say: “The Islands’ Partnership recognises that this is contrary to its continuing ambition to deliver this aspect of the Strategy for Tourism as recommended by Blue Sail and, given the IP’s determined resolve to achieve the seamless delivery of tourism services on Scilly, it is disappointed that it felt unable to tender.

“The IP remains of the view that a visitor information service is an important part of the offer made to visitors and has confirmed its wish to work with the Council and others to help secure the continuation of these services.”

When members voted on the TIC’s future, it was agreed that the authority would continue to operate it until a new operator was sourced.

It is clear that many islanders feel the Council should maintain control of the service. In September a ScillyToday webpoll registered 223 votes, with 88% of people in favour of the Council retaining the TIC. 11%, or 30 respondents, backed the authority’s exit from tourism services.

In a statement, the Council says they are now considering the various options available and a full report will be discussed by elected members in due course.

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