Tourist centre’s glory short lived

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Peter Colling, managing director Tourism South East, Tracey Young, Rye TIC manager, Emily Truby, Rye TIC information assistant, Lee Stevenson, Tourist Network (category sponsor) and Rich Clarke, Heart FM presenter and host for the evening

The Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in Lion Street, winner of the silver medal in the Visitor Information Provider of the Year category at the Beautiful South awards, will sadly not get the chance to prove itself in VisitEngland’s Awards for Excellence 2015 because it will have closed. The doors will shut for the final time on March 7.

Only last month, manager Tracey Young collected the award at Brighton’s Grand Hotel. She explained to Rye News that the centre would not be able to champion the South East in the national competition because it would no longer be open and “that wouldn’t be fair on visitors”.

The centre has won accolades from within the industry on many occasions and Peter Colling, managing director of Tourism South East (TSE), was generous in his praise for Young and her staff: “TSE has been running the contract from Rother District Council for about five years. The idea was to set up satellite centres in Bexhill and Battle and run those as well and that was successfully achieved.”

Unsurprisingly, the closure comes down to money. TSE has been subsidising the budget received from Rother, but the new tender was deemed unsupportable and TSE decided not to pitch for it. Instead, Rother will fund a distribution service, with brochures being made available at a key point in each of the three towns.

Luckily for Rye, unlike Battle and Bexhill, the town has its own Heritage Centre (The Old Sail Loft, Strand Quay, Rye TN31 7AY, 01797 226696). It is owned by the town council – in other words the people of Rye – and profits go back into the town. Peter Cosstick, the manager, explained that he and his staff would not be taking over the telephone and email inquiries formerly handled by the TIC, but that helping visitors in town would be absorbed into the important face-to-face service they already offer.

Currently, the Lion Street centre is holding a sale with generous reductions on many goods. Paintings will go back to the artists and the books will go down to the Heritage Centre. Unfortunately, it can’t accommodate the staff as well.

“The biggest problem,” said Colling, “is the people – having to lose them after all the successes in building up the centre and doing a great job and winning awards against information centres with far higher budgets. The staff have provided a fantastic service to the town. It is a showcase centre for TSE.”

All the staff have been made redundant. When asked about her plans, Young was in the process of updating her cv. She’s definitely looking for work in the same industry and is “very sad” to be leaving Rye.

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Winners: Tracey Young (right) with assistant Sue Butchers