The main tourist office in Leeds, which is one of the UK’s busiest, is to move from its railway station home of 20 years.
Leeds Visitor Centre, which sees 2,000 people pass through it daily, will close at Leeds City Station tonight (Jan 30) and reopen in the cafe and gift shop of Leeds Art Gallery on Monday in a bid to save over £100,000 a year.
The centre’s rental agreement was up for renewal and rates at the site were expected to increase significantly.
Leeds City Council bosses say that the move will also see Visit Leeds maintain a “mobile presence” at the station and elsewhere, and will make the service more “agile and flexible” as the authority bids to save £76million this year.
Coun Lucinda Yeadon, the council’s lead for culture, said: “What we are trying to do is ensure there is a sustainable service being delivered in the financial context we are in, and also in the context that people are changing the way that they access information.”
She said it would “be reasonable” to suggest that usage of the facility is expected to reduce, while its staffing will lessen due to retirements. No staff will be made redundant.
Critics had accused the council of moving the facility to a “desk under the stairs” at the gallery, suggesting the move would be counterproductive amid a tourism boom after the 2014 Tour de France.
But council bosses say only a fifth of Leeds visitors come through the station, while online visits to the Visit Leeds website have rocketed from 137,000 to 1.1m since 2010.
The council’s director of city development Martin Farrington added: “We’re providing more information to more people but just not in the same way.”