Fareham council criticised for cutting tourism spending

END OF AN ERA Westbury Manor Museum on West Street in Fareham, which houses the Tourist Information Centre
END OF AN ERA Westbury Manor Museum on West Street in Fareham, which houses the Tourist Information Centre

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TOURIST information is to be axed by a council in a bid to save money after it was ranked the least-favoured service by residents.

Fareham Borough Council made the final decision on Monday to close its Tourist Information Centre, which has served the town for more than 30 years.

The tourist information centre was ranked as the least-favoured council service in the council’s 2013 residents’ survey. It asked residents to list the five services they regarded as the most, and the least, important.

The move to close the centre, which is in Westbury Manor Museum, on West Street, has been criticised by the Lib Dem opposition.

Lib Dem councillor Katrina Trott said: ‘I am very sad, Of course it came bottom of the residents’ survey because the residents generally know Fareham. It is appalling and I am sure savings could have been made elsewhere.’

Closing the centre will save £36,000 a year and it will join up with Tourism South East and shift its operations online or into businesses in the town at a cost of £1,500 a year.

Peter Colling, MD of Tourism South East, said: ‘There is nothing quite like face-to-face personal service to make you feel welcome and that’s what the tourist information centre does — it makes you feel welcome so you stay longer, spend more money and recommend people to visit.

‘Tourism has led the economic recovery and a third of all jobs are in the hospitality and catering sector. It is a sector that authorities should be taking very seriously.’

Mr Colling said many towns were scrapping tourist information due to cutbacks in government funding and that he would be keen to work with the council to continue serving Fareham.

Council leader Cllr Sean Woodward defended the decision and blamed the internet for driving down footfall.

Yesterday shoppers were upset to learn of the news.

Anne Foskett, 64, of Clarinda Crescent, Locks Heath, said: ‘I use the tourist information centre a lot. I would be very upset if it was closed.’

Barry Large, 61, of Chilgrove Road, Drayton, said: ‘It should be kept open. The more information people can get the better really. There’s nowhere else.’

Last October, the council announced that it needed to make savings of £800,000. It has already implemented savings totalling £777,000.