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Medway Visitor Information Centre in Rochester High Street shuts permanently

A tourist town’s help desk office for visitors is shutting permanently tomorrow (April 19) as part of a council cost-cutting exercise.

The closure of the Medway Visitor Information Centre (VIC) in Rochester, which includes a public toilet and art gallery, has led to fears from traders around footfall.

Medway's Visitor Information Centre in Rochester is closing tomorrow (April 19)
Medway's Visitor Information Centre in Rochester is closing tomorrow (April 19)

It’s estimated the closure will save cash-strapped Medway Council about £200,000 a year.

The upward trend of more people seeking advice and information online and not in person has also been blamed for the shutdown.

Figures reveal that on average the number of visitor inquiries to the VIC is 165 a month, compared to 76,000 people per month using the Visit Medway website, between April and January.

Relevant visitor information will be available at heritage attractions across the Towns.

The council’s leading Labour group has come under criticism for axing the services while at the same time launching a four-year programme to boost tourism.

Two long-running events, the summer Dickens Festival in the town and the English Festival at Riverside Country Park in Rainham have also been axed in a bid to balance the books,

Free entry into the Guildhall Museum in Rochester has been scrapped and replaced with a £5 admission charge.

Visitor opening hours at Eastgate House in the High Street and Upnor Castle are being cut.

Richard Hicks, chief executive of Medway Council
Richard Hicks, chief executive of Medway Council

At a recent council scrutiny meeting, chief executive Richard Hicks said: “It was a really difficult decision around the VIC and the team there do a fantastic job.

“But actually some of the changing patterns in the way tourists access information around areas isn’t always around face-to-face setting and, with the financial setting, it was a very difficult decision, but necessary.”

Mr Hicks said tourism represented £360 million a year for the local economy and supported 7,000 jobs.

Among the locations which might be used to distribute information are Eastgate House, Rochester Castle, Rochester Cathedral, Restoration House, Six Poor Travellers House, Temple Manor, Chatham Historic Dockyard and Upnor Castle.

The Huguenot Museum on the first floor will remain open and the cash machine outside, which is the only free-to-use ATM in the High Street will not be affected.

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