DORSET Council has proposed stopping funding to its final three Tourist Information Centres (TICs) as it cannot afford to pay for them.

These are based in Sherborne, Dorchester and Wareham, and the authority plans to investigate alternative ways of providing these services in the future.

The three TICs cost around £200,000 each year to operate and employ 12 part-time workers.

Around 30 million people visit Dorset annually, with around 93,000 people visiting one of the three TICs during 2019/20.

There are five other TICs, in Blandford, Shaftesbury, Bridport, Swanage and Wimborne, which are run by other organisations, such as volunteers or town and parish councils.

Councillor Jill Haynes, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for customer and community services, said: “It’s always a difficult decision to reduce services we have historically provided, especially in the current climate and when jobs are potentially put at risk.

"However, our financial situation leaves us little choice but to review the provision of all services we’re not legally required to deliver.”

In a report that was taken to the Place and Resources Overview Committee, members heard how the council proposes to continue to support the Visit Dorset website and consider one-off funding to reduce the impact of potential closures on local people.

A recent consultation showed that there is a strong level of support for TICs and the service offered both to residents and visitors.

Of nearly 1,000 respondents, 82 per cent stated that they use a TIC, with nearly 40 per cent visiting more than five times a year.

The top three purposes for using a TIC are to find out information on the local area, buy tickets for a local event or festival, and buy retail goods.

Cllr Haynes said: “We cannot afford to fund tourism support activity at a local level across communities in Dorset.

“The council’s role is to promote Dorset as a destination, so we will continue to develop the Visit Dorset brand to support the visitor economy and promote sustainable tourism as part of our Economic Growth Strategy.

“The consultation has demonstrated that TIC services are still considered to be important by local people, visitors and businesses.

"It’s important that Dorset Council investigates all potential options for how these services could be provided in the future.”

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