Anger at the loss of the Norwich Forum tourist information center
The lack of a tourist information center in Norwich has been criticized as “short-sighted”, with the city opening up to visitors and stays after the Covid closures.
Norwich City Council closed the Forum center permanently in April following a service review.
The center had been closed since December 2020 but continued as a telephone and email counseling service, with the authority saying this would create savings of around £ 110,000.
A city council spokeswoman confirmed that the authority’s position has not changed since the closure was announced, despite increased attendance in Norwich.
Standing outside the old tourist information center on Saturday morning was Nicholas Thompson, 66, who said the loss of the facility was a disgrace to the city.
Mr Thompson said: “I don’t have internet access. I don’t want to look like I’m living in the 16th century, but my wife and I grew up without it.
“I found having the brochures helpful if we wanted to go somewhere.”
Diana Fordham, 77, called the center’s loss “tragic”.
“Everyone I talk to wants it back,” Ms Fordham said.
“Visitors often ask where the tourist information center is. It was such a good place to have it.
“I prefer to come somewhere where I can talk to people. It can be difficult to call and have to wait for someone.”
Many used the tourist information center for bus passes and the Go 4less discount card offered for municipal facilities.
A 71-year-old woman, who declined to be named, said she now had to go to the Norman Center on Bignold Road to get the Go 4less card rather than walk to the Forum.
“I think they are crazy to shut it down,” she added.
“Having people wandering in a city of culture but not having a tourist office is banana.
Stephanie Gothard, who has lived in Norwich for 30 years, said: “It’s poor for a city like Norwich not to have one.”
Such thoughts are echoed by city councilors, with Green Party Councilor Lucy Galvin describing the closure as “shortsighted” and “counterproductive”.
Ms Galvin said: “I am very sad that the center is no longer there and I do not think it should have been closed for several reasons.
“The most important reason is probably that Norwich is a heritage city full of beautiful buildings and a regional center of tourism. Domestic tourism is increasing.
“It’s really unusual for a city as historic as Norwich and the size of the place not to have one.”
She described people having to drive elsewhere to access the passes as “totally unacceptable” because not everyone has access to a car.
Ms Galvin, who works for the Norfolk Coast Partnership, added: “There is a lot of research showing that the internet works well, but it’s important that people can back it up.
“They should be able to call somewhere for advice, information and leaflets.”
Martin Schmierer, Green Party city councilor for the Mancroft district, said: “The closure of this tourist information center is a very regrettable and backward step.
“Promoting tourism is something Norwich must seek to do more, not less, if the city center, particularly with its commercial and hospitality offerings, is to have a viable future.”
At the time of the closure, city council said in-person visits to the center had been on the decline for many years, with 2019 showing a 50% reduction from 2012.
Nikki Rostos, director of strategy and culture, said: “More and more people are choosing to find local information elsewhere and our in-person visits have declined even before the pandemic hit.”
The tourist information center had been at the Forum since November 2001.
It was previously located at the Guildhall and Augustine Steward House.
The old center is currently used to house the Norwich Science Festival and exhibitions.