Tourist centre talks
Wednesday, 31st August, 2011
An information booth for tourists could be put inside the Regional Art Gallery in Argent Street as part of changes proposed for the Visitor Information Centre (VIC).
The VIC could also have its opening hours cut without affecting the services it provides, and more money could be spent on improving Council’s web site which was proving popular, according to a report by City Council’s General Manager.
The report will be considered by Council at its monthly meeting tonight.
Last month councillors asked the General Manager, Frank Zaknich, to report on whether cutting the opening hours would result in the VIC losing its right to display the nationally-recognised blue and white “i” sign for tourist information.
Mr Zaknich said reducing the hours would lower the accreditation rating from level one to two but that practically this made no difference.
The sign could still be displayed, he reported, and the VIC would still be open 363 days a year, which was the same number of days that a level one information centre was open.
The only difference between the levels was that one was open for a minimum of 56 hours a week, and two for 43 hours a week, Mr Zaknich said.
If the opening hours were cut, the VIC staff could work at other Council-owned facilities that offered tourist information, Mr Zaknich said.
He gave as an example the city’s art gallery which, he said, offered a good quality display of information and services to visitors.
A display unit, suitably branded to show that it was offering official Council tourist information, could be placed in the art gallery’s foyer and hold the official visitors’ guide, a map of the city, leaflets and brochures, Mr Zaknich said.
However, he argued against having an “i” sign placed on the gallery because this would mislead tourists into thinking that the gallery was an accredited tourist information centre.
That would also hurt business at the VIC, which is housed in the Tourist and Travellers Centre in Bromide Street, and Council’s plans to turn it into a tourist hub by inviting businesses to open up there.
“The numbers... would go down in this model,” Mr Zaknich said.
“Fewer visitors at the VIC equals lower sales and foot traffic though the Tourist and Travellers Centre which would reduce tenancy viability.”
Mr Zaknich also recommended to Council that it spend more money on technology because it was a very effective way of attracting tourists.
He said Council could start by improving its website which had, despite being “tired and very dated”, recorded a 22 per cent increase in visits in the past year.
Over the same period, visit to the VIC had fallen by 39 per cent, he said.
“If Council continues to rely on human resources and built infrastructure only, the costs to Council and the community will continue to rise and still the organisation will not meet customer expectations.”
If the city wanted to attract more tourists then Council would have to spend more money on “marketing and creating reasons to visit, Mr Zaknich said.