Outrage over the plan to move Salisbury’s tourist information centre to the shopmobility site at The Maltings has been met by Cllr Matthew Dean, leader of Salisbury City Council.
He admitted the plan had not been well presented but he pointed out that, in fact, the city had not had a dedicated tourist information centre for many years.There was no intention of swapping the Guildhall office with a new tourist information centre at the The Maltings, he stressed.
“The office at the back of the Guildhall is split roughly 80% for council enquiries and 20% tourism,” he pointed out in an exclusive interview with Valley News.
The internet had changed the need and demand for face-to-face experiences with tourists, and many more emails were received. In May, the shopmobility site was given back to the city by Wiltshire Council, but required urgent investment and renovation to run it, or it would have had to be closed, Cllr Dean explained.
“It doesn’t matter where we take emails or mail, or use the internet, but here is a run-down building, under-used, and we can find a good use for it.
“There are two sorts of tourist, those who come from outside the area and use the information centre for maps and general enquiries, and it serves a very important service. But some people can’t find it, yet we need to keep a ‘meet and greet’ service which will be moved to the front of the Guildhall.
“The second group of tourists is actually residents of Salisbury and the local area, often older people with little IT ability and no access to the internet who use the information office for details of day trips outside the City. Officers answer their queries about train times and chat to them about local attractions.
“We compared access to the information office with that at Shopmobility. Some users of scooters also want interaction and volunteers provide that. The refurbished centre will be a hub of community activities to include inbound tourists, and we plan to spruce it up with lighting, planting and good signage.”
Another advantage was that, despite efforts to reduce parking in the city, many visitors drive in and park in the long stay area of The Maltings.
“A huge number never get to the information office, but in The Maltings, they will have a hub on the doorstep,” he stressed. “So we will have an information office at the Guildhall but a higher profile versatile tourism and community hub with modern facilities at The Maltings, run by one manager.”
He said staff savings could total £60,000 a year.