Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Cornwall Council to close Launceston Tourist Information Centre

Cornwall Council has taken the decision to close the Tourist Information Centre in Launceston. This is a terrible decision which will massively affect a large number of local businesses and mean a worse experience for many visitors to our town.

The Tourist Information Centre (TIC) shares the One Stop Shop premises in Market House Arcade. I've been in the TIC many times and have seen many visitors getting information about our town, planning days out and booking accommodation. All of this work will be hit if the Council's plans go ahead.

The difficulty apparently comes because of the way the TIC is currently managed. It is currently funded and managed via the Customer Services wing of the Council and is the only TIC run in this way. Others are either private, run by town councils or by Visit Cornwall.

Customer Services were in discussion with Launceston Town Council about taking over some or all of the running of the TIC in its current location. But whilst the discussions were still going on, it appears that the decision was taken nonetheless to end Cornwall Council's involvement with the service.

I've asked a number of urgent questions of the Council about this decision - specifically:

  • who took the decision
  • what discussions did they have with Visit Cornwall or anyone who deals with tourism within the Council
  • why they did not inform the local Cornwall Councillors
  • what consultation has been held with local businesses who help to fund the TIC as it currently is

I've also asked them to guarantee that this is not a prelude to a decision to close the One Stop Shop and withdraw services from the town altogether.

Certainly one of those kept in the dark was Carolyn Rule, the Cabinet Member with responsibility for tourism who assured me a month ago that there were no plans to abandon Launceston's TIC - although the Council would be looking for partners to help them with the operation. Carolyn has told me this afternoon that she knew nothing about the decision until I told her.

Assuming that the One Stop Shop is kept open, this doesn't appear to be a decision about money. Although not huge, the TIC does have some income and, for a number of reasons, simply taking away the TIC from the One Stop Shop is likely to actually cost the Council more, rather than less.

Launceston is not the biggest tourist centre in Cornwall, but we do have lots of visitors and we have been working locally to do more to promote our town and its attractions. Why the Council seems to think that it is ok to simply abandon us at this time is beyond me.

UPDATE - I've slightly modified the original version of this post based on replies I've had from the Council to some of my questions.

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