Friday, 4 December 2009


Proposals to develop visitor information services in Thanet in the future are being put forward by the council.

The plans include a number of pilot schemes that have been running throughout the summer, including the new mobile Visitor Information Centre, a marquee that toured 14 major events in Thanet, with staff on hand to answer questions. Surveys carried out on the success of the mobile VIC showed 100% satisfaction with it.

The current thinking on visitor services is to find ways to widen the range of locations and ways that information can be sought. These include:

Key tourism points providing enhanced information based in businesses and other outlets across Thanet. Staff at these locations will be able to help visitors to the area and will be provided with information and leaflets.
Extended information boards, providing extra information, at locations popular with visitors, such as beaches.
Increased electronic contact by phone and internet that reflects the increasing demand for these services, as opposed to personal visits.
Tourism ambassadors, who would be fully trained, to add to the Thanet Greeters, enabling a wider range of front line staff to provide tourism information. This could include council staff or staff at attractions, shops or restaurants.
The mobile VIC, servicing a wide range of key events in Thanet.
Extended relationships with tourism services across East Kent to widen access to information about Thanet for visitors to the area.
The potential for electronic kiosks, which could provide touch screen information, but this is still being investigated further.

As part of this programme, the provision of traditional Visitor Information Centres would be scaled back, with the likelihood that there would be fewer VIC’s in the area in the future. This is a process that many other areas across the country have completed or are going through, with Canterbury proposing a change of focus for their Visitor Information Centre, as part of their current budget consultation process.

Director of Environmental Services, Mark Seed, said: “People want information in different ways when they intend to visit an area and we have to adapt to that. We need to modernise and change, and that’s why we’re putting these ideas forward. Rather than having staff based in centres that require people to visit them, we want our team and the information they have to be out and about much more. This includes attending the major events across Thanet that attract thousands of visitors each year, as well as having increased information available in businesses and attractions that visitors will be using as part of their stay. It seems sensible to ensure that we’re targeting our resources where the visitors are.”

He added: “Thanet has been in a very fortunate position over the last few years, in terms of its VIC provision. This has been very much against the national trend of reducing these services. However, the pressure is mounting every year on the Council to save money, with the need for us to find savings of £1.8 million next year. That’s a huge amount of money and the situation will not improve in the next few years, especially when you think about the national situation. We do need to find new and more effective ways of doing things and we think the proposals we’re putting forward will help to achieve that for VIC’s in the future.”

The proposals will now go forward as part of this year’s budget consultation proposals, with local people able to give their views on how they think the council could save money in the future.

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