Sunderland tourist information centre branded ‘pathetic’

Coun Peter Wood on Fawcett Street which is now the base for the Sunderland Tourist Information Service.
Coun Peter Wood on Fawcett Street which is now the base for the Sunderland Tourist Information Service.
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VISITORS to Sunderland are getting a raw deal, it was claimed today.

Tory group deputy leader Councillor Peter Wood has criticised the city’s new tourist information centre (TIC), which initially moved from its former base in Fawcett Street in 2011.

Concerns were raised when it was put in a less prominent position on the second floor of the city centre library.

Visitors were promised a “gold-standard service” when it was integrated into the customer service centre in Fawcett Street last September.

But the St Michael’s ward councillor has labelled the new facility “pathetic”.

He said: “I first raised the question of tourist information in the city more than two years ago when the Fawcett Street tourist information centre closed.

“I was assured then that a comprehensive service would be provided from the second floor of the library and, for a brief period, a pale imitation of the former Fawcett Street service was provided alongside the sound and vision service.

“Then it was announced a visitor information service would be provided from the council’s customer service ground floor offices, alongside the library building.

“Anyone who can find the current offering – and some have tried and failed – will find it pathetic.”

He also rejected the suggestion that visitors to the city would find information online.

Councillor Wood said: “I accept that a fair proportion of visitors will use the internet. But not everybody has this access, especially people actually visiting the city at the time they want information about its attractions.

“Selling Sunderland begins at home, i.e. in the city and Sunderland has plenty to sell. We are selling Sunderland’s heritage short. The council simply isn’t trying.”

Susan Mearns, a full-time carer from East Herrington, often visited the original TIC centre.

She said: “I used to go in regularly to find out if there was anything we could do.

“I went into the library and it is tucked away in a corner, with a few little bits here and there. it does not give a very good impression. Anyone wanting to know anything would not find it.”

Councillor John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “Last summer we established the Visitor Information Service, which is delivered across the whole city in 10 customer service centres, including Fawcett Street in the city centre.

“In doing this we have widened access to cover all of Sunderland and made visitor information more accessible to more people.

“Regionally and nationally we have seen other locations moving away from static tourist information centres. Like us the approach is to take the information to the visitors, either on-line or at key locations. Within the last year we have also created a new place brand, See it – Do it Sunderland that describes the family friendly attractions and vibrant events offer we have within the city.

“We are constantly reviewing our place marketing offer and will seriously look at opportunities as they arise, including having additional information points in areas of Sunderland that are popular with visitors.”