By Judy Benson - 16th September 2005 11:13am
The motivation for opening a tourist office was that as a business we had been forced to look for new avenues since we faced the introduction of local competition for our newspaper & magazine trade. Also because the big supermarkets had already substantially eroded our clothing trade. Opening a tourist office will hopefully improve our sales of gifts and cards.
However, the inspiration for opening a tourist information office within Audlem was initially from a day time TV make over programme! Which I hasten to add, was pure luck that I saw, as I rarely watch day time TV (honest ). The subject of this programme was improving the fortunes of a small village shop, somewhere in Southern England, and this included converting some of the premises into a tourist information point to improve what is commonly known in the retail trade as 'footfall,'(or 'bring more people through the door', to the lay person).
After it finished, I just thought "what a good idea — why don't we do that ?"..... We have increasing visitors from both nearby towns, and of course the canal,....we had the room, .....we have a central location ....and we are open 7 days a week. The more I looked at it, the more it seemed to make sense.
Shortly after this I joined the Parish Plan Steering Committee, and was assigned the Business and Tourism Working Group to chair. The discussions and ideas within this group served to clarify and strengthen my initial thoughts, and with their backing I was able to turn the idea into reality.
However, implementing the project was not as straight-forward as one might imagine. The English Tourist Board, as I found out, normally have strict requirements concerning opening up official Tourist Offices, that normally require you to become properly accredited and to offer the full range of tourist services; including computerised accommodation booking and staff training courses- which, at least initially, I knew we would not be able to take on board. So, for a while there was a stalemate as to how we could proceed.
However, with the (much appreciated) support of Crewe & Nantwich Borough Council's Tourism Officer, Rachel Dyer, and the Manager of the Nantwich Tourist Office, Mr Paul Burns, we were able to overcome these obstacles and become instead a 'satellite' branch of the Nantwich Tourist Information Office- which is something of a first in the country I believe!
We are hoping that the introduction of the Tourist Office facility will not only improve our own business, but will benefit the village as a whole by not only providing a focal point for tourists, but also by providing a platform whereby local attractions and events can be advertised.
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