THE race is on to save one of the Lake District’s busiest tourist information centres from closing.
Windermere Tourist Information Centre will shut its doors at the end of the summer season unless volunteers and financial support are found.
And the Lakes Hospitality Association (LHA), which has been funding the Victoria Street centre since December, has pledged to do its best to stop it closing.
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“We have kept it open seven days a week but all our financial resources have now been exhausted on paying running costs,” said LHA president Jonathan Denby.
“Volunteers can help to keep it open until the end of October but if no money is forthcoming I am afraid it will have to close.
“We will do our damndest to stop that from happening.”
He added the TIC is ‘vital’ for tourism in the town and is often busy with Japanese and Chinese tourists.
“More than half of the visitors come from overseas and for them it’s a vital service because they will want to get their bearings, buy a map and speak face-to-face with someone about what is happening in the Lakes,” he said.
“To lose that would be devastating.”
South Lakeland District Council ran the TIC until 2010 before it cut ties with a number of centres to save money.
The LHA stepped in and assumed control, sub-contracting it to a company called Windermere TIC Ltd to take over the day-to-day management.
But Mr Denby said that company was liquidated before Christmas and the LHA was forced to take over.
He said SLDC had offered grants to keep the TIC afloat but from October the council wanted to charge an annual £20,000 rent.
“We are very grateful for the support given by SLDC in keeping the TIC open for the last three-and-a-half years,” he said.
“Without their support it would have been impossible.
“We now need to think creatively about how we can keep it open.”
One of those helping out is Chikako Masaki who has travelled from Japan to intern at the Newby Bridge Hotel and is also volunteering for 20 hours at the centre.
“People like Chikako are a Godsend,” added Mr Denby.
A spokesman for SLDC said: “An annual lease value has always been payable on the building, but as part of the agreement over the first three years SLDC provided a grant towards the cost of operating the service, part of which was to be used to cover the lease value.
“Under the terms of the agreement in 2010 it has always been the case that the lease value has been applied to their occupation of the building but that the funding support would cease after three years.
“This is something the tenant agreed to at the time and has formed part of an arrangement that has been in place for more than three years.’’ Anyone who wants to help should call the TIC on 015394 46499.