Tourist Information Centres – Victims of the Digital Age?

I was raised in the pre-digital age. We had no mobile phones, no CDs, no DVDs, no computers, no internet, no E-mails, no downloads, no streaming, no games consoles, no Sky TV. In fact we only had three television channels, later increased to four with the arrival of Channel 4. TVs were big bulky boxes with a typical screen size of about 20 inches. Tiny when compared to today’s flat screens. But we were happy!

When we went on holiday our first point of call was the Tourist Information Office (TIC). These were essential to find out what to visit, when it is open and how to get there by public transport. Tenby’s TIC was operated by Tenby Borough Council and was located in the Civic Buildings on The Croft. During the winter period staff were kept busy mailing out thousands of Tenby Guidebooks to potential visitors to the town. In the summer they were rushed off their feet answering hundreds of questions from visitors and booking hotel accommodation for them. It was a boom time in Tenby’s tourist industry. Today we still have a local authority operated TIC located next to the bus station and multistorey car park. But for how much longer? Pembrokeshire County Council is looking to cut its spending and one easy saving is to cease providing tourist information. In the digital age, do we still need Tourist Information Centres?

Before I go on holiday today I research my chosen destination on line via the world wide web. Enter ‘visit’ and the name of your destination in a search engine and you will be directed to a website providing some of the information that the old TICs provided. Specialist websites will book your holiday accommodation and other websites enable you to book your travel tickets without leaving the comfort of your own living room. The digital revolution has made organizing a holiday much easier than it ever was. So do we really need a TIC in Tenby? For the digital user probably not, but what about people who for whatever reason are unable or unwilling to use digital platforms? Is it right that some groups in our society are excluded?

Pembrokeshire County Council is not alone in closing TICs. In North Wales, for example, they have become extinct. Some, perhaps more enlightened, areas have decided to maintain TICs. Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney in the Channel Islands all have excellent TICs in prime locations in the town centre. They also have a booming tourist industry. Pembrokeshire County Council recently undertook a consultation on the future of Tenby’s TIC. Bizarrely they asked the residents of Pembrokeshire for their views but not the users of the facility – the visitors! Let’s hope they also consulted with local tourist providers in the Tenby and South Pembrokeshire area to ascertain their views. Perhaps the question can best be answered by examining how many people actually visit Tenby Tourist Information Centre every year. Has the figure fallen in recent years or has it remained fairly stable? Let’s hope that our elected representatives examine these figures before rushing to make a decision that will result in the loss of a useful facility for visitors to Tenby. TENBY TOURIST INFORMATION CENTREIf Tenby Tourist Information Centre does close, it will indeed be one more victim of the digital revolution.