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MCR Visitor Information Centre To Close And Move

Council cuts force redundancies and relocation

Published on January 6th 2015.

MCR Visitor Information Centre To Close And Move

THE AWARD-WINNING Manchester Visitor Information Centre (MVIC) is to close in April this year.

The recent round of council cuts have been shared amongst the various departments and this time Visitor Services have been hit. There will be redundancies of experienced staff. 

Smart phones, the great hope of tourism authorities everywhere, do not replace the need for information boards, better ground-level information, leaflets, guidebooks and above all, people.

MVIC, aka the tourist information centre, is the focus for visitors who want face-to-face information about what to see and do in the city and across the region. It's also the location from which most guided walks begin.

A much reduced face-to-face service will open elsewhere in the city centre later in the year although the actual site has yet to be decided despite the very tight time frame. Central Library or the Town Hall Extension seem a good bet or perhaps, even, Piccadilly Gardens' TFGM office. 

Nick Brooks-Sykes, Director of Tourism at Marketing Manchester, told Confidential: “As part of Manchester City Council’s efficiency savings, we are looking at how we can continue to deliver an award-winning tourist information service on behalf of the city council whilst reducing overheads.

"An opportunity to break our lease on our current premises will allow us to look at alternative, less costly premises. Manchester will continue to offer excellent visitor information services and that in the future these will be further enhanced by a growing presence online.”

MVIC closes by April

MVIC closes by April

Brook-Sykes is putting a very positive spin on closure and relocation here.

In April 2013 the need for face-to face advice led the Manchester Business Improvement District (BID) to employ hosts in the main retail area of the city to supplement MVIC. 

As for the online presence, this is what Confidential wrote last year (for the full article click here):

'Tourism is a visceral foot-to-the-ground experience, pacing the city, learning as you go. Smart phones, the great hope of tourism authorities everywhere who want to cut costs, help, but do not replace the need for information boards, better ground-level information, leaflets, guidebooks and above all, people. One day we may live in a digital tourism nirvana but not yet.'

The fragility of relying on a digital presence is underlined by the present homepage of the official Marketing Manchester VisitManchester website where a headline lists the Top 5 Freebies as John Rylands Library, RNCM, Heaton Park, Whitworth Art Gallery and Barton Aerodrome.

In January only one of these is actually correct - John Rylands Library. Heaton Park has its main winter feature, the Hall, moth-balled, Barton Aerodrome is miles from the centre and difficult to access, RNCM has a wonderful building but usually the public can only visit the canteen and the foyer, while Whitworth Art Gallery won't re-open for several months.

Advice is only any good if it makes sense and digital solutions can often end up more costly than traditional ones.

Of course the council are in a fix. They need to make cuts and these have to be shared. The shame of this is that in the year of Manchester International Festival, the launch of HOME, the re-opening of the Whitworth Art Gallery and in a time of growing visitor numbers to the city with high hotel occupancy, the axe has to chip away at services that bolster an economically vital element of any modern European city - tourism. 

It must be stressed, as Brooks-Sykes points out, that not all direct face-to-face advice from a tourist information centre style operation is going, but this reduction in services probably reveals where we are headed. 

Guests on a tour. Tourist numbers are increasing


Guests on a tour. Tourist numbers are increasing

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36 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 6th 2015.

Online information services can be excellent, but the public sector have a dreadful record in this area. There is no incentive to provide good, up to date information as staff get their wages regardless of how effective the website is. Updating the Manchester tourist website should be outsourced to a private company.

16 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 6th 2015.

Ahh, the private incentives that make sure our trains are always on time, competitively priced & working perfectly? Oh wait a minute...

Duke FameJanuary 6th 2015.

Very good analogy, since privatisation train have seen a huge rise in customer numbers with more passengers, less subsidy per passenger mile on the back of a far more enjoyable customer experience. It's logical to outsource this to a more suitable private enterprise. I'd have thought the state would have worked out that it's not a travel agent since it sold Thomas cook off in the early 70's.

AnonymousJanuary 6th 2015.

Excellent analogy. The trains that offer a poorer more expensive service with ridership increased only in the back of enormous public investment in infrastructure. Or the failed East Coast franchise that had to be rescued and returned to profitability by the public sector. When there is no incentive as on the railways, where each franchise operates as a self contained monopoly, the private sector is demonstrably worse and offers poorer value for money.

James SmithJanuary 6th 2015.

Clearly not a train user then. Most expensive in Europe, overcrowding on a par with the sub-continent, on rolling stock so old it should be grade II listed, and still heavily subsidised by the tax payer. Let's see how popular the train remains if oil prices continue dropping.

Barry MaginnJanuary 6th 2015.

The fact that the private owenrs of East Coast failed and then handed back to state ownership (which transformed the service to bring in £225m to theTreasury while being the highest rated and most punctual service) shows that the rhetoric of privatising all our public services to profit-hungry businesses is not always a great idea. The fact that the Tory Govt is re- privatising the East Coast service in the name of 'innovation' is nothing short of a perverse pursuit of a failed www.theguardian.com/…/privatising-east-coast-rail-rip-off…. Just remember, the privatised rail network of today is more heavily subsidised than it ever was (in real terms) in the British Rail days.

Barry MaginnJanuary 6th 2015.

*failed ideology

Duke FameJanuary 6th 2015.

Nonsense Barry, East Coast did not invest and was going backwards. GNER ran Eurostars, East went back to 125's, fewer trains and pretty poor experience. GNER did not fail, Sea containers did, National Express in fairness mucked up with their sums, the extra routes and franchise fee were too much. Privatisation of the railways has not been perfect but has delivered. Really the Tocs need to own the tracks. Nevertheless, forget your guardian nonsense, privatisation is winning out www.telegraph.co.uk/…/Railways-in-black-for-first-time-in-two-decades.html…. Hopefully we will never see a Labour govt again but I don't think even those idiots would nationalise rail again.

James SmithJanuary 6th 2015.

Strange that I saw a readers poll in the Telegraph where the majority voted to re-nationalise the railways.

Barry MaginnJanuary 7th 2015.

Duke - If you enjoy paying over the top prices to line the pockets of service providers ironically part-owned by the French and German Govts, fair enough. In the meantime here is some more information on the fact that East Coast has outperformed any other franchise in the privatised era, this time from a trade mag: www.railnews.co.uk/…/09-east-coast-profits-and-passenger.html…. The simple fact is that no short term franchising model will ever be efficient given the long-term return period of necessary rail infrastructure Capex. Also, franchising routes out does not bring true competition as bidders essentially lowball each other to win a contract, then hold a monopoly on that line and are free to force the Govt to ransom for subsidies when they don't hit their unachievable targets.

Barry MaginnJanuary 7th 2015.

Ps it's a hell of a claim to say something is 'winning out' because it paid in £256m one year, having been propped up by an average of £1bn per annum subsidies for the 19 years previous. Hardly the model of financial success.

Al CourtneyJanuary 7th 2015.

Shame "Anonymous", presumably private sector educated, is so poor with grammar!! "Public sector" being a collective noun should be followed by "has" and NOT "have"...and I learned that at a state school, too! Public sector organisations frequently deliver services etc. often under tight financial & legislative constraints - try working in one sometime, Anonymous!!

Duke FameJanuary 7th 2015.

True James but nevertheless, it does not make it a good idea. Services paralysed by strikes, awful service, ignorant staff, dirty trains all drove people away from railways. Privatisation has doubled the customer numbers and whilst not perfect, has worked well. This is more the reality: www.cityam.com/…/there-sadly-mass-support-nationalisation-and-price-controls… The private sector tends to deliver and should be used unless there really is market failure. A more commercial approach in travel agency should be beneficial to Manchester and cheaper.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2015.

Privatisation had not doubled passenger numbers. This has been achieved thanks to enormous public investment in track, signalling, electrification and subsidies for new rolling stock. The old British Rail network was starved of investment by successive governments but particularly Thatcher who hated the notion of public transport and was known not to be a fan of train travel.

Duke FameJanuary 8th 2015.

In the sense that passengers have been counted before privatisation and counted now, yes, passenger numbers have indeed doubled. The quality of rolling stock is determined by the TOCs (depending on the line of course). If the TOCs owned the line it would work better, East Coast may have 140mph tracks for their 140mph trains for instance. I agree though, the coalition have done well to improve infrastructure. The big advantage of privatisation is competition which has led to improvements in service and no more strikes. It's a relationship able service when you know the whole of the network is not going to walk out.

Wilmslow MikeJanuary 8th 2015.

Is Duke Fame a member of the Flat Earth Society as well? Eurostars were discontinued by GNER themselves in 2005 - 2 years before end of franchise as being inflexible and 'out-of-gauge' north of York. GNER failed because it simply overbid and could not meet its premium payments - no mystery. It then rather ironically complained of competition from Hull Trains and Grand Central even though the latter hadn't even started running! National Express similarly overbid and desperately cut on-board services in a failed attempt to stay afloat. The Virgin/ Stagecoach bid is quite 'toppy' too - it will interesting to see how it performs with falling petrol prices and a route with considerably less business traffic than the West Coast and very dependent on volatile leisure traffic. Let's hope the taxpayer doesn't have to come to the rescue yet again.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

The multi billion pound West Coast mainline improvements were nothing to do with either the coalition nor the private sector. Doesnt stop Richard Branson claiming repeatedly that it is Virgin Trains who are responsible for the increase passenger volumes on that route. I believe it is this very simple mistruth that Duke has swallowed and is repeating without thinking.

AnonymousJanuary 6th 2015.

I preferred it when it was in the Lloyd Street corner of the town hall extension. I thought the Piccadilly move was a bad choice and a waste of money. A tourist information centre needs knowledgable people and an up to date, simple and easy to use website. No need for the high tech wizardary or mile long displays of leaflets. It needs people that are passionate about the city rather than some complacent council worker. The Visit Manchester site has always been a messy and often out of date site. Regardless of the outcome, I will continue to help people I see everyday on the streets of Manchester that can't even find themselves on their app's and maps, let alone navigate their way through the city. Mancunians make this city and I believe it's a tourist's first impression of us, not our football, Primark or Spinningfields that they'll remember more and hopefully they'll want to return. We Mancunians have a responsibilty to promote this city and together we'd do a far better job than the council or any of its politicians.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldJanuary 6th 2015.

Anon, I've worked with the Visitor Information Centre for years and it's clear you've never been in. Invariably the staff have been passionate, knowledgeable and informed.

AnonymousJanuary 6th 2015.

Typical, idiotic public sector bashing by an unthinking moron.

AnonymousJanuary 6th 2015.

No JS, I've been in loads and I always leave empty handed and try and find the info I want elsewhere. I worked for the council BTW and they're just not in touch with the city. They're just retail staff employed by the council. It's just that it was just more obvious they were when they were in the little tourist information shop that used to be in the corner of the town hall extension.

mike_aJanuary 6th 2015.

It's not really a good sign when the Visit Manchester website promotes Britannia Hotels as a place to stay. One night in one of their hotels and you wouldn't want to come back to the city.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
DarrenJanuary 6th 2015.

Agree completely.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

THAT is the ONE hotel I tell people to avoid....

Manci DoodleJanuary 6th 2015.

It is not necessary for the council to pay a tourist office to insult visitors....the city's shops and restaurants do the job perfectly well without any public money. "Aya mate. Y'alright there."

Ed GlinertJanuary 7th 2015.

I feel sorry for the staff, with whom I’ve worked for years. The service in the Visitor Centre has improved immensely from the days in 2009 when I asked for a walks leaflet and the assistant eventually found one from a box under the desk. When I asked why they weren’t on show, I was told “because people keep taking them”! What frustrates me about the Visitor Centre news is that huge sums of money were wasted a few years ago on hi-tech screens and an ambience that made it resemble an Apple shop more than an information centre. The interactive maps have rarely worked. Yes, when they do you can look up your Facebook friend’s address in Knoxville, Tennessee, but that's a lot of money spent on nonsense. Then there are the wall screens. You can now see a tweet from “monstermash77” telling his mates he’s going to get bladdered tonight on Deansgate Locks, but the screen that's supposed to contain information about walks almost never works. As for the merchandise, you can get a T-shirt with a quote from Happy Mondays but not a guidebook to Manchester. No books at all!. I think it’s called dumbing down. The new centre should never have been put near Piccadilly Gardens. Manchester should be trying to keep visitors away from that hell-hole. What will happen now is that a reduced information desk will open in the same space that the old Information Centre used to occupy on Lloyd Street, which is now an under-utilised and wasted spot vaguely connected with the Library. So much for hi-tech progress Money is never short in Manchester when it comes to useless vanity projects: those screens, the glass gates at Library Walk, the “information” kiosks on street corners, Metrolink…

3 Responses: Reply To This...
SquirrelitoJanuary 7th 2015.

Agreed about the (temporary?) Visitor Ctr being in absolutely the wrong place; in the grubbiest part of the grimiest public space in town. The wonder that is Parker Street "We are Manchester: Marvel at our Squalor!"

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2015.

I thought the location was ideal. Piccadilly is actually a pretty thrilling place to move through (and I say this with a straight face) with its incessant colour, activity, movement and sheer diversity of people passing through. And as the principal gateway to the city from the tram, bus, coach and train stations the visitor centre was ideally situated. It's not for no good reason that the newsagent next door does so well with its tourist souvenir merchandise. It would be madness to move it back to the town hall simply because someone deems the surrounding architecture to be more pleasing. Tourists seeking information on a new city need to be able to access it first and foremost. Piccadilly will always be better situated to deliver this service.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2015.

'with its incessant colour, activity, movement and sheer diversity of people passing through.'? Dodgy, scrotie, workshy not-rights is a better description. 24/7 that place is a hole. 'And as the principal gateway to the city from the tram, bus, coach and train stations'? Yeah...carbon manoxide ridden noise hell is what it is. Gateway House would have been a better location.

SteveJanuary 7th 2015.

I thought this was only a temporary move anyway, while the Town Hall refurb was taking place. MCC are obviously not going to pay to lease a space from Bruntwood when they can bring it back in to the Town Hall for free. Simples

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 7th 2015.

Not Bruntwood anymore.

Poster BoyJanuary 7th 2015.

In the Big Society, the MVIC would be a charitable trust, staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, operating from a privately gifted pavilion (via architectural competition), prominently situated in Piccadilly Gardens. But that would just be ridiculous.

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2015.

Sad news. This was a perfect unit for the service who's offer, visuals and scrolling red sign really complemented the role and 'buzz' of Piccadilly. In light of the cuts surely this service is ripe to be taken under the wing of CityCo and the City Centre BID team, dovetailing with their trilby hat wearing Rangers team?

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2015.

Interesting that they move the Assistant Chief Exec in charge of Communications and Customer at MCC into a "seconded" role as Head of Marketing Manchester on the rather obscene salary she takes and then they close down the MVIC.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2015.

Horrid location...Way better in TOWN HALL.....

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 11th 2015.

I always thought it was a temporary location whilst the town hall extension was being renovated. Clearly not.

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