TOWN centre traders have launched a petition in a last-ditch bid to prevent Worthing Borough Council closing the town’s tourist information centre.
The council intends to replace the office, in Marine Parade, with a number of ‘access points’ in theatres and prominent locations, with the decision voted through unchallenged at the last full council meeting.
But Nigel Watson, of Anchored micropub, in West Buildings, and Paul O’Brien, of I Love Candy, in Bath Place, feel the council has pressed ahead without adequate consultation.
Mr Watson said: “I have used it frequently and got a lot of advice when I was looking for a place to stay while I was looking for a premises for my business.
“The council says not a lot of people are visiting, compared with the overall tourist figures, but I would contest that. There is a phrase, ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ and you can use figures to argue against anything.”
The closure was proposed in a wider council report, which detailed various organisational changes, including managerial redundancies across the council.
The report quotes a potential seven redundancies, at a cost of up to £480,000, but this is not related to the cost of closing the tourism office.
It also states just 23,100 visitors, out of more than 3.3 million ‘tourists’, used the tourism office in 2013.
Mr O’Brien said: “I understand we need to move forward and change, put more information online and at pinch points around the town but nobody is going to drop into a theatre to pick up tourist information.
“It’s almost as if were saying that we don’t want the older generation to visit us any more and ‘sorry we only want to attract a younger audience’.”
Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said she was largely supportive of the changes but urged the council to invest more in attracting visitors to the town.
She said: “I don’t think they have communicated this at all well.
“If they were just closing the tourism office down and getting rid of tourism funding, we would be on our high horses like everybody else but what we are being told is they are focussing on the Worthing offer and getting more people into town and if that is the case, we are supportive of it.”
She added: “The figures are always a year out of date, which means they are not particularly valid. The two main reasons to come into Worthing are to shop and visit friends and relatives.
“Of course, if you are living in Shoreham and coming to shop, you are seen as a tourist.”
A spokesman for Worthing Borough Council reiterated that the final decision over the closure would be made by the relevant cabinet member, which was expected to be made before Christmas.
He said: “Additionally, we are working with our partners in Arun and Chichester on finalising a study on the future opportunities for the wider visitor economy across our sections of Coastal West Sussex.
“The findings of the study will form the blueprint for our visitor economy projects, priorities and the future growth of tourism in the town and beyond.”