North Yorkshire Council hopes the move will save costs and enable it to generate rent from the Royal Baths, which has been dogged by low investment returns since the council paid £9.5 million for it in 2018.
Danielle Daglan, head of culture and archives at the council, said in a report to councillors the unit could generate between £30,000 to £40,000.
Leasing it out would also save £24,300 a year on service charges, energy supply, maintenance, waste collection, cleaning costs and rates for the unit.
Closing the centre was considered, particularly as visitor numbers have fallen from 135,000 pre-covid in 2019 to 68,000 last year.
But the report said:
“Whilst visitor numbers are declining it is felt important to maintain access to the service to support tourism within the area and to provide services for those who are unable or prefer not to use digital services.”
The centre, which is currently closed, has frequently had to close due to staff shortages. The council employs ‘visitor and experience assistants’ who work at the Mercer Art Gallery and Knaresborough Castle as well as the centre.
The report says the move, which is due to come into effect in April, will “enable longer, more reliable opening hours and reduce staffing demand” and that staff are “supportive of the proposal”.
It adds there will be “minimal” impact on customers, adding 65% of pump house visitors also visit the centre on the same trip and it is common elsewhere for tourist information facilities to be located in visitor attractions.
The report says::
“This proposal will improve the tourist information service by co-locating with another visitor attraction.
“The ability to deploy staff in a more effective manner will also mean longer opening hours for visitors. The Tourist information Centre previously opened 10am to 4pm Wednesday to Sunday.
“From April 2024, the Tourist information Centre service based at the Royal Pump Room Museum will be open 9.30am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday.”
The move is another example of the impact of last year’s local government reorganisation, which saw Harrogate Borough Council abolished and North Yorkshire Council introduced.
Last month Harrogate Theatre said it was exploring ‘alternative financial models’ after the council, which is trying to make £30 million savings, decided to take over event programming at the Royal Hall and Harrogate Convention Centre.
The council’s community development directorate is expected to ratify the move on Wednesday next week.
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