Along with non-essential retail, the Rye Information Point finally re-opened on April 12. Reduced opening hours were in place until the beginning of May, when daily opening resumed. This is the first time the town hall has been open daily for the full hours of 10am – 4pm (closed from 1pm – 1:30pm), as originally envisaged pre-Covid-19. A tourist and resident information service is, for the first time, now available seven days a week at the town hall.
The information point mostly handles visitor enquiries, which have been steadily increasing since re-opening. With a marked increase after May 17 (and the most recent easing of lockdown restrictions) the average number of visitor enquiries has doubled from the initial opening, and is now up to nearly 50 visitor enquiries a day, plus council enquiries from residents and businesses.
As experienced last summer, with a number of the main attractions in the town remaining closed or operating in a limited way, the information point has proved popular with visitors seeking out things to see and do in the area. The staff frequently explain that even just a walk around the town is fascinating, and provide visitors with town trail maps enables them to take their own tour.
For those residents of Rye who haven’t visited the town hall for a while, a warm welcome awaits them. It is a very different place from only just over a year ago. Moving the information point into the former reception area necessitated Richard (the town clerk) and Jessica (the deputy town clerk) ‘moving in together’ to share the clerk’s office. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there are still limited staff working there at any one time, but the number of people now visiting the town hall has increased greatly.
The town clerk and deputy remain available from Monday to Thursday (anyone wishing to talk to them face-to-face is currently asked to make an appointment). Alternating working from home still, where possible, usually only one of them is at the town hall at any time. However, information assistants Gail and Kate are able to help with a wide range of residents’ enquiries, and undertake reception duties, freeing up the clerks’ time to focus on longer term council projects.
Prior to the move to the town hall, the visitor information facility provided at the heritage centre proved unsustainable for Rye Town Council to subsidise in the long-term, prompting the move and restructure. Over the course of the last year (and especially in light of the pandemic), it is clear that the ‘scaling down’ of the operation has provided an opportunity to focus more on the provision of information to both residents and visitors, whilst also reducing the administrative burden associated with running a larger business.
There is a new ‘buzz’ to the town hall as multiple functions have been consolidated into one building. This has also served to provide greater value for money – something that is proving vital in the aftermath of Covid-19.
Image Credits: Nick Forman .