City tour guides fear disastrous summer if council doesn't 'get in gear'
- Credit: Christopher Moore
Norwich walking guides have raised fears that their hiatus from city streets may be extended yet again - not because of the pandemic but the council's axing of its tourist information centre (TIC).
Chris Moore, secretary for the association of city of Norwich tourist guides, is a 66-year-old retired headmaster who thrives on educating people about the "wonderful place" he's lived in for nearly three decades.
But because of coronavirus, he and the 25-strong team he represents have not been able to get out into the city since 2019.
Added to the uncertainty of the pandemic is the council's decision to close the TIC - which for years has marketed and organised the tours on the guides' behalf.
"Most people who came to Norwich before the pandemic find out about and book onto the tours through the TIC", Mr Moore said. "But we're unsure of what will happen to us now that's gone.
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"In the short-term, we're especially worried about the summer of 2021. Unless the council rapidly gets in gear we may lose this season too, and that would be disastrous for tourism in Norwich."
A spokesperson for the city council said it was in conversation with the guides about the best way forward for them following the permanent closure of the TIC.
"We're also working to help them find a new partner to provide support, including administration", it added.
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“Some of the guides offer their fantastic services and local knowledge on an independent basis and any queries will be passed to them, so tours are currently available.”
The guides, different to Norwich BID's "hosts" who provide directions and information for visitors, consist of Blue Badge guides and City of Norwich Guides - both of whom are qualified to take visitors on historic and themed tours around the city.
They have long been a part of Norwich's vibrant tourist fabric.
Recognising this, Mr Moore said that even if the guides could no longer rely on the council they would do everything in their power to return to the streets of Norwich.
He said: "One model we've been looking at is Bury St Edmunds. They've built up a successful independently-run service over the years.
"That takes time and resources to develop, but I definitely think it's worth it if there's no other option."