Sudbury Heritage Centre criticises plan to close Lavenham tourist centre
The Sudbury Heritage Centre and Museum has criticised the decision to close tourist information centres (TICs) in Babergh and Mid Suffolk, citing research which suggests that more and more people from overseas are visiting the area.
Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils confirmed last week that the TICs in both Lavenham and Stowmarket would cease operating in their current form in the autumn, following the completion of the upcoming tourism season.
A spokesman explained the move was being taken as the two councils look at ways of modernising their tourist information provisions and their tourism strategy as a whole.
But opponents of the decision have decried it as a cost-cutting measure that could potentially see 11 jobs lost between the two centres, arguing it would hinder visitors’ ability to access helpful information.
Valerie Herbert, trustee of the Sudbury Museum Trust, said that, while she believed the future of the Sudbury TIC, which is currently run out of the town’s library, is safe for now, it was important for the neighbouring towns, such as Lavenham, to have a voice.
She cited an analysis of the museum’s visitors’ book carried out earlier this month, which revealed that, in 2017 alone, tourists from a total of 18 different countries visited Sudbury.
These included the US, Canada, Australia, Israel, Japan, South Africa, Iceland and Ecuador, while, domestically, almost all of the counties of England were represented.
“Our tourist information offices need to be looked on as an investment,” she said.
“Babergh wants to close the TICs in Lavenham and Stowmarket, at a time when tourism is being recognised in Suffolk as a valuable source of income.
“Babergh thinks they could be run by volunteers, but they need professional skills.
“At the moment there is no news of the future of Sudbury TIC – hopefully it is safe – but tourists like to visit a cluster of places of interest, so our important wool towns all need a local voice.
“The huge lottery supported development of Gainsborough’s House will undoubtedly add to footfall in Babergh and, as I understand it, the strong possibility of a budget hotel in Sudbury is still very much alive.”