Observer helps save Bognor Regis tourism services

Observer Series editor Colin Channon, recieves the keys to the Tourist Information Centre from council leader Gillian Brown, alongside councillor Norman Dingenans.
Observer Series editor Colin Channon, recieves the keys to the Tourist Information Centre from council leader Gillian Brown, alongside councillor Norman Dingenans.

Tourism services in Bognor Regis have been saved in a unique agreement.

The Bognor Regis Observer and Arun District Council have joined forces ensure a new Visitor Information Centre Lite will open later this month.

The groundbreaking deal means the newspaper office will move into the Visitor Information Centre on the Place St Maur following its closure yesterday.

When it re-opens, later this month after some internal alterations, the well-known building will host all the tourism information visitors and residents will expect to find as well as the services currently offered by the Observer at its Station Road premises.

Arun’s leader, Gillian Brown, said: “This is an excellent arrangement. It is a wonderful opportunity for both organisations and for the community. We have managed to find the right solution for the tourism service.”

Colin Channon, the Observer’s group editor, said: “There has a been a lot of publicity about councils trying to put their local newspapers out of business by running their own newspapers.

“But here we have Arun actively wanting to keep the Observer in the centre of the town.

“It is an ideal position for us. We will have good accommodation for our reporting and advertising staff.

“And there will still be the front counter staff taking in adverts and ensuring the number of tourism leaflets is maintained.

“We are also looking to have a corkboard in the front office where organisations will be able to pin details of their events.

“This arrangement puts the Observer where it should be – at the heart of the town.”

But he stressed the editorial independence of the newspaper was unaffected by its status by the move.

It was announced by the district council back in November 2009 that the VICs in Bognor and Arundel were likely to shut because of financial cutbacks.

It cost about £100,000 a year to run both centres.

Protests staved off the Bognor office’s final closure until yesterday when two-part-time members of staff at the Bognor centre lost their jobs.

Cllr Norman Dingemans, who is in charge of Arun’s tourism service, paid tribute to the efforts of the employees who had provided such a good service to thousands of people a year.

But he said: “The way people access this sort of information is changing and the way we have been providing it is very expensive.

“We have been looking at how we could change that but no commercial organisations were willing to come forward.

“The arrangement with the Observer is a good solution to the situation. It enables to keep a tourism presence in the town and it meets the requirements of both parties.

“The information everybody wants will still be available either in the centre or online.

“Our Sussex by the Sea website will continue and bookings for hotels will go through there.”

Visitors to the VIC Lite will have leaflets, maps, brochures, accommodation directory leaflets and internet points to be able to find out information.

There will also be three computers offering high-speed internet access as well as seating and tea and coffee facilities.

The Bognor Regis Observer has been situated in Station Road since 1950 but the end of the premises’ lease prompted the paper’s owner, Sussex Newspapers, to search for a new location. Details about the move will be announced in the next few editions but the opening hours of office in Station Road will remain unchanged until further notice.