The future of Guildford’s tourist information centre is in doubt as councillors heard that providing an online service could save the council £70,000. The tourist information centre is currently housed in Guildford House Gallery, a Grade I listed town house and art gallery in Guildford High Street.
Its potential closure was discussed at a meeting of Guildford Borough Council’s service delivery executive advisory board on Thursday (May 19). The meeting discussed initial ideas which will then be brought to the borough council’s executive for a decision.
Council documents show that the most common requests at the tourist information centre are for bus timetables and maps. Four options were presented to councillors, which ranged from maintaining the offer as it was to closing the centre and ending the offer completely.
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The preferred of the options was highlighted as removing the physical office and providing information online. Councillors were told this “modernised, improved service” would deliver savings in the region of £70,000 and £80,000.
Documents said: “The physical presence in the High Street would be lost and there would be potential redundancy costs.” Councillor George Potter (Liberal Democrats, Burpham ) said a decision had to be made on what would happen to the building.
He said: “It’s no good deciding to discontinue a service and then be sat around thinking: ‘Now what do we do with this building we’ve got left which is currently empty?’
“There needs to be a holistic look at all heritage assets in the town centre and the services provided from them to investigate the question of how best we can deliver value for money and how best we can deliver the savings.”
He said he would support more of an online offering but that there should also be some sort of physical availability, such as map dispensers and information given out at the Guildford Museum.
Ian Doyle, service delivery director at the borough council, said there were no lifts in the Guildford House building, and it needed modernising, but he said the staff there currently were “very knowledgeable”. He added: “We are going to have to look at how we use that building better.”
A new information offer would look at working with organisations such as Visit Surrey and the town’s business improvement district, Experience Guildford. Councillors were told that in 2019, tourism brought in £300million to Guildford.
The current tourist information centre provides information and advice to visitors to the borough and a gift shop, it used to also be a box office providing ticketing services for local events but no longer is.