The decision to axe the VIC member of staff from the desk at Dickens House is part of £75,000 in cutbacks which the council is making.
The plan is to continue tourism services alongside the museum but without staff. Instead the council will install leaflet racks and a free phone line to the VIC in Margate.
Bill Hackney, who runs the town’s South Lodge Guest house and is a member of the Isle of Thanet Tourism Association, said: “The Visitor Information Centre services are critical to the ongoing and upward development of tourism. I think the council is cutting off the nose to spite the face. Tourism is worth more than £160 million a year to Thanet. It is a very big part of the Thanet economy. To cut back on a fundamental cornerstone of the economy even in these hard times is short-sighted.”
This new cutback comes as a blow for Broadstairs, which lost its first visitor information centre in 2004.
Zoe Holeness, chairman of the Broadstairs Tourism and Leisure Association, said: “It is a sad loss. Ramsgate has something in place and in Margate they have decided to keep the Visitor Information Centre. This is unfortunate for Broadstairs which has more visitors than the other two put together. We would like to keep our VIC open for one more season so we will be contacting the council to put our views forward.
“It is such a shame tourism isn’t on top of the list. It is an easy way to make cuts in a time when the country is in recession. People are advised to holiday in England but there is no advice for them when they get here.”
Brian Sleightholm of St Peter’s Village Tour said: “It is obviously unfortunate because we are a tourist area. It is difficult because it has been good outlet for promoting our village tours. Visitors have been there a staff have mentioned our village tour and on many occasions booked people on the tour. Nevertheless I realise what the financial conditions are like and hopefully we will still have an outlet for our leaflets. Having said that, we have had more and more bookings through our website which shows how things are changing.”
Angela Curwen of the ITTA said: “There is an ongoing discussion going on between the ITTA and the head of the visitor information centres and we are working to make the best of the changes.”
Cllr Shirley Tomlinson, for Thanet council, said: “Information will still be available in Broadstairs. Although the council’s visitor information team may not be based there in the future, there is already an exceptionally knowledgeable team who work at the museum and who help and advise visitors about the area. They are a great resource for visitors and they will be supplemented by a freephone service that will allow people to speak directly to one of our VIC team.
“This may not be the approach that people have been used to in the past, but we’re in tough economic times and need to make savings. We’re not alone in rationalising our visitor information services. Many other councils are doing exactly the same thing as well, as it’s not a service that councils legally have to provide. However, it’s something that remains key to us and that’s why we’re looking at new ways of working that allows more information to be accessible to both residents and visitors.
“If any commercial operators are interested in helping provide visitor information in Broadstairs, we’d be delighted to hear from them.”