End of an era for Preston visitor centre

Merchandise: Products for sale at the former VIC in the Guild Hall
Merchandise: Products for sale at the former VIC in the Guild Hall
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The city’s visitor information centre is to close, because of a falling demand for its services.

The VIC, which was this year moved from the Guild Hall into the Town Hall, is now set to be merged within the council’s contact centre.

With the touch of a mobile phone people can get visitor information in the palm of their hand and most people now search online to find out about visitor attractions, hotels, parking and directions.

Martyn Rawlinson

And the move is expected to save money for the cash-strapped authority, as well as to “improve services”.

Coun Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, said the way people searched for visitor attractions had changed. He said: “With the touch of a mobile phone people can get visitor information in the palm of their hand and most people now search online to find out about visitor attractions, hotels, parking and directions.

“We’ve also recently sold the Guild Hall and no longer have any requirement to sell tickets or take bookings.

“In January, we took the step of moving the Visitor Information Centre to the Town Hall and whilst we are receiving enquiries on a daily basis, it is clear that there is less and less demand for the services provided by the VIC.”

He said the council had a duty to offer the best value for money to tax payers and said: “As a cabinet we take our responsibilities very seriously.

“When the council has to save more than £3.6m a year by 2017/18, we must leave no stone unturned in our quest to offer the best possible service and value for money.

“With a declining demand for the service, it’s sensible that we should look to make changes at the VIC.

“By merging the services of the VIC within our current contact centre operation we can both save money and improve services.

“We can be more flexible and offer one, single point of contact to deal with a wider range of resident and visitor information queries.

“The highly skilled and loyal staff at the VIC are a real asset to us, so we are consulting with them about the proposed changes and the opportunities that lie ahead. The council has a long standing policy of avoiding compulsory redundancies where ever possible.”

Mark Whittle, of Preston’s Business Improvement District, said: “The way people seek information is changing, visitors to any destination increasingly carry out their research before arriving.

“The advent of the Guild City website will assist those coming to Preston with their itinerary planning.

“There’s always lots happening in our great city and by communicating effectively together, we can ensure that Preston is a destination of choice.”