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Visitor's centre to shut up shop
THE “public face” of tourism in the county has been slashed.
Visit Herefordshire confirmed this week that it is to shut its shop in Hereford city centre having lost vital council funding.
Monday’s Herefordshire Council budget meeting heard it was “entirely appropriate” that the council should seek savings on its commissioning with Visit Herefordshire.
Now the Visit Herefordshire board is to review the way ahead for its work while “realigning job roles” for existing staff, working out of “cheaper more appropriate” offices.
In a letter confirming the closure of the King Street centre, Visit Herefordshire chairman Sir Ben Gill said the funding changes should be put into context with it being two years since Visit Herefordshire became a freestanding business outside council control.
Up to that time the annual expenditure by the council on tourism had been significantly greater than £500,000 a year.
In the last year Visit Herefordshire has been working to a service level agreement with the council of less than £200,000 a year.
“The cuts will take this figure to less than £150,000 per annum with the prospect of further cuts to nearly £100,000 by 2015. This underlines the need for Visit Herefordshire to be ever more creative and efficient in the way that it goes about its work and delivers the ultimate marketing benefit to the county’s tourism sector,” he said.
Without a retail operation, Visit Herefordshire will focus on marketing the county and extending its publications into social media with a web service being relaunched by the end of March.
At Monday’s meeting Councillor Charles Nicholls challenged cuts to the council’s tourism subsidy citing figures from the county’s 2010 to 2015 tourism strategy that said visitors made nearly £416 million for the local economy in 2009 alone – or around £2,311 for every resident.
That, said Coun Nicholls, represented a “pretty good return” on the council’s current subsidy of £465 per person.
Visitor spending, he said, supported more than 8,500 jobs.
Councillor Roger Phillips, cabinet member for enterprise and culture, said savings on the tourism subsidy were entirely appropriate given the council’s budget pressures, with support for Visit Herefordshire available through the local enterprise partnership.
“I am confident that the proposed savings can be achieved without affecting the delivery of front line services,” he said.