Coffs visitor centre to close on weekends
PART closure and staff reductions are among measures Coffs Harbour City Council is set to impose on the Coffs Coast Visitor Information Centre.
From August 1, the centre will close at weekends and operating hours will be cut to 10am-4pm on weekdays.
Paid staff will still open and close the centre from Monday to Friday, but the centre will operate under a self-service model, assisted by volunteers.
The council says the changes are part of a long-term tourism strategy reflecting a shift towards online tourism bookings and inquiries that's resulted in a "significant drop" in demand for services traditionally offered by the visitor centre.
But the move has caused consternation among the business community and volunteers including David Stonestreet who is now considering "calling it a day".
"At the moment the visitor centre is open almost every day of the year and weekends are when we typically see more tourists through the centre," he said.
"They're changing it at a time when we need to promote tourism, not cut it back."
The centre operates under a lease arrangement at The Big Banana, and a significant number of inquiries come from visitors to the local landmark.
The Big Banana's general manager Michael Lockman said the centre supported various tourism bodies by providing face-to-face information about local attractions and services.
"This is where tourists come and while they are here they drop in and find out other great things to do in Coffs," Mr Lockman said.
"The centre assists with the dispersion of guests to other attractions - it's a great thing for the town."
The council says its approach to tourism would shift towards initiatives including a mobile phone tourism app and website that provides "a comprehensive 24/7 service". Other measures include brochures and maps at high-traffic points, pop-up visitor booths at events, and plans for digital kiosks.
Chamber of Commerce president George Cecato was cautious about the changes, saying some "visitors may not be familiar with new technology and do prefer the old way".
Long-standing volunteer Ken Baumber believed face-to-face interaction was worth retaining.
"There are people who come in and say they're thinking of staying on the Coffs Coast for a couple of days, we run it through with them, and they book a couple of nights' accommodation," he said.
"It's a face-to-face, personal approach that people respond to."
It comes as Nambucca Shire Council has flagged changes to its visitor centre, with a view to lease the site but retain a small floor space for current purposes.