08 Place Closure!
Liverpool City Council announced this weekend the closure of the 08 Place in Whitechapel with effect from this coming autumn. No surprise this as there have been stories for a couple of years now about the high cost of the lease on the building.
What has surprised and annoyed me however is the way this has been done and the lack of a strategy regarding tourist information provision in the city centre.
Unlike the councillors and council officers concerned with this closure, I have first hand experience of tourist information in the city as I work as a volunteer in the 08 Place and Albert Dock and have had 5 years experience as a volunteer meeter and greeter in the city along with many other volunteers who value the role the 08 Place has played in the tourist economy of this city.
The 08 Place in Whitechapel is expensive. There is no doubt that this should be closed on cost terms but what about the alternative to an expensive private sector lease?
Why have the council not examined alternative premises for the information centre? St Georges Hall faces Lime St Station and is in an ideal location also near to the main bus terminus at Queen Square. This would be rent free as it is an existing council owned property. It already houses a heritage centre and surely this could be expanded into a full Tourist Information Centre?
Municipal Buildings is less than 5 minutes walk from the present 08 Place. Although not an ideal location it would at least be rent free.
Have the council explored partnerships with other information providers in the city. Queen Square information centre operated by Merseytravel would be a great location (this is where the TIC used to be before the 08 Place came into being) and again the running costs could be shared. Similarly with the Liverpool One Information Centre in Wall St.
The council claims that footfall is down in the 08 Place. Well this has been deliberately engineered as the meeting place for the popular Magical Mystery Tour was moved to the Albert Dock last year so removing a large number of visitors away from the 08 Place. Readers should also be aware that the 08 Place is far from empty. Yesterday myself and fellow Champ Barbara dealt with dozens of visitors from overseas, the UK and local people. The staff is ‘pinned’ behind the counter with queries, hotel bookings and selling merchandise.
The 08 Place is far from empty in spite of what the powers that be say!
How can a city which claims that tourism is central to the economic development of the city justify the closure of this asset without making alternative provision? The Albert Dock TIC is still in place but anyone who has visited this will know that this is woefully small. Most of the visitors to the Albert Dock are out-of-town or foreign visitors. The 08 Place caters for locals to a greater degree.
The councillors claim that people use alternative media to get their information, app’s, the internet etc. Wendy Simon and co should try asking and app the way to a local attraction or an event organized in the last week. They are usually out of date and can act as a rough guide only. Same for the Visit Liverpool website, very good but never completely up to date. I think that this statement shows how out of touch the council is from the needs of tourists in the city, both local people and out-of-town tourists.
The staff in the 08 Place were not told in advance that a statement was to be made to the local media last week. This is just appalling management!
There are questions to be answered here. If the council are serious about tourism they need to have a clear and comprehensive plan. The closure of the 08 Place seems to be simply about saving money. Poorly thought through this will lead to a diminution of the visitor experience in the city and a consequent reduction in repeat visits.
Maybe Councillor Simon and others behind this decision should try getting some first hand experience of the job of Tourist Information advice and start using their imagination instead of hiding behind the budget cuts excuse!