Tourism company 'confident' it will rise to the challenge of 15 per cent cut
TORBAY'S tourism company is coming to terms with a 15 per cent cut in its Torbay Council funding for next year.
The proposed cut comes on top of 30 per cent efficiency savings made by the English Riviera Tourism Company.
Debate on this and other budget cuts proposed by Mayor Gordon Oliver was to be deferred at a council meeting last night to a meeting on Wednesday, February 13.
Carolyn Custerson, chief executive of the tourism company, said: "This is a significant additional cut, particularly when the ERTC has already made efficiency savings of 30 per cent.
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"The reality is, however, we face unprecedented times and Torbay Council, our key funder, faces cuts of £10million and we have pledged to support them through this challenging time."
Chris Hart, chairman of the ERTC, said: "The company has been very successful and we should all be very proud of what has been achieved in such a short time. Never before has the industry been so determined and united to push ahead and I am confident we will rise to this latest challenge and we remain as a board very confident about the future."
Mrs Custerson said the board has agreed unanimously that destination marketing must remain the top priority to arrest long term decline.
The ERTC plans to invest a further £500,000 in promoting the English Riviera for 2013/14.
She said this investment is only possible thanks to the continued expansion of the English Riviera Promotional Partners Programme, managed by the ERTC, which now has more than 350 local tourism businesses working with the company to share the costs of advertising the resort nationally and internationally.
The budget for 2013/14 will be £750,0000 and the grant from the council will be £500,000. The company is generating more than £200,000 from the private sector.
The savings will be made by again restructuring in-resort visitor information services to reflect the changing demands of consumers.
Mrs Custerson said as recommended in the adopted Turning the Tide for Tourism Strategy, the company now plans to consolidate the official visitor information counter service to one, year-round operation based at Torquay harbourside where the company has its head office.
This will be known as the English Riviera Visitor Information Centre and will continue to offer services including accommodation bookings, attraction, theatre and travel tickets and car parking passes.
There will be increased seasonal staff and volunteer support during the busier months with reduced staffing proposed during the winter.
The ERTC also plans to increase the number of official visitor information 'pick up' points at partnership sites across the resort and open all year. The visitor information centre next to the Apollo Cinema on Paignton seafront will not reopen as a seasonal service on April 1 and the Brixham visitor information centre, currently located at Hob Nobbs Gift Shop on Brixham harbourside, will become a visitor information 'pick up point' for this season. The company will look at establishing at least one new visitor information point in Paignton when the Apollo site closes.
Tony Smythe, ERTC director who operates Sonachan House in Paignton, said: "We regret the necessity for these changes, but the reality is these latest budget cuts have forced us to look very closely again at the costs of operating the visitor information service which is expensive to run at a time when we are seeing an overall decline in its use."
Mr Hart added: "This proposed change means an increased number of businesses across the Bay will now have the opportunity of becoming an official English Riviera visitor information point and this presents many benefits.
"Hosting the service gives the opportunity to increase footfall and we have seen this happening at the first visitor information points we have established already at Hob Nobbs Gift Shop in Brixham and at the Romany Jones Cafe at Kingskerswell."