Ipswich Tourist Information Centre: Visitor Experience

Discussion in 'Local Politics' started by dan5, Aug 4, 2017.

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  1. dan5

    dan5Founder MemberStaff Member

    Today I went to the Tourist Information Centre to pick up the Explore Ipswich Visitor Guide.

    Oh dear, as visitor experiences go, it wasn't a good one. I am not a visitor to the town so was being heavily critical. Not all visitors will have such a view - some might not care if it is a little run down - some people like to see potential even if it isn't marketed. The church is a good venue but this is where it ends.

    Walking down Tower Street into Dial Lane, into St Stephens Lane via dodging a Big Issue seller... Arras Square is dated and needs some serious TLC before the old BHS store will ever have a tenant. This is noticeable after walking through the thoroughfare of what would have been "The Link"... Tower Street past St Mary le Tower and Dial Lane past St Lawrence Church (St Lawrence Centre) and the shops... and navigating through Buttermarket past the Ancient House, the new Buttermarket Centre facade makes a contrast where it becomes very noticeable of how bad the area has become. Or so in my opinion at least.

    Nevermind, this isn't the TIC... but on approaching the Tourist Information Centre which should be a lovely church with some nice history behind it... all you can see is a cluster of A-Boards and notices. The Tourist Information Centre might as well be in a barn!

    Even inside the visitor experience doesn't improve much. Disorganised. Not a lot of sense involved in the layout.

    You walk in, lobby area - on the left is a selection of marketing materials laid out, just there for the taking.

    A little further in on the right is a map of Ipswich town centre on the wall, it is almost immaculate, well looked after and maintained... hang on a moment... Tower Ramparts shopping centre? Okay, only recently rebranded fair enough... Duke Street roundabout? Didn't that get removed in 2010? Is it about time to update that map?

    Further inside is a mismatch... areas are obvious to be selling merchandise, professionally compiled books which look like books... and then a mix of flyers, folded leaflets, booklets and larger books without knowing if they are free to take. Well, the flyers and leaflets are obviously free. There is no sections for local and regional literature... it is mixed. Some local promotional leaflets are as soon as you get in and some you really need to explore the entire place to find. Tables exists with leaflets indiscriminately scattered... some are tourist attractions, some are alcoholic events, some are theatre performances...

    There are more leaflets and booklets promoting everywhere else but Ipswich! As a visitor you need to search the entire place to find what you need. I get the impression most people would have a quick look, leave and miss out. They could really do with something like those TakeOneMedia leaflet stands (okay leaflet stands) so it is more organised. More effort on selling merchandise too.. should be treated like a shop.

    Where is the newly highly anticipated Explore Ipswich Visitor Guide?! I searched everywhere, even looked at the first desk... not there. Looked at the second desk, not there (no one on that desk). They have a few POS leaflets. I went to the third desk, asked the woman if they had any (as on the first desk she was on the phone taking an order)... as she answered she pointed to the visitor guide which was on the desk but hidden by being stacked depth-ways (the booklet is only a few mms wide) between the side of the vertical desk support of the kiosk and the computer monitor. How was I to know? I suppose you have to ask for it.

    It pays to be sociable and ask... but considering their role involves guiding visitors/tourists and selling merchandise including over the telephone... for someone like me, I wouldn't want to wait around ...or delay anyone else, to find basic information I assume I have simply overlooked and sound stupid. "it's over there!"

    Back to the Explore Ipswich visitor guide... it was promoted in local press that it was available from the TIC, why wasn't it readily available? No spaces where it could have otherwise been placed. Limited run and discouraging locals from taking a copy? Well, it sorts of defeats the object of a TIC with promotional materials laid out and the purpose of promoting it in local press!

    Tourist Information Centre setting is good but could be utilised better. The only sign needed is letting people know it is a Tourist Information Centre. It isn't fair to judge the TIC based upon appearance of the town around it, however, the A-Boards they put outside could be reduced for a better visitor experience. In a nut shell, it is a sales office for the borough plus a place for basic promotional information (some of the free information will gain them an income).

    It is supposed to feel welcoming as part of the hospitality service industry, to better their experience and allow them to purchase gifts (always pricey) as a souvenir. Too many outside advertisements make it appear a cut-throat sales environment. Not good. It could be greatly improved...

    • Clear up the outside - at one metre distance... if 70% of what you can see is not the church entrance, then what is the point of it being in a church?
    • Split Ipswich/Suffolk information away from other counties (labelled) so information can be found quicker
    • Leaflets should be on a stand - neater, more inviting - could be revolving stand similar to postcard racks
    • Better layout - help desks (?) either at the very back or in the middle (island)
    • Some audio/visual feature - basic information video (i.e. Ipswich attractions) or touchscreen information guide
    • Make an effort on merchandise - it is just there with a price tag - not inviting enough - no shop randomly places its items around and expect people to find out (improvements will boost sales) - and I don't mean big bright red tags with white text saying SALE and WOW
    • Bigger selection of gifts/souvenir - books, soft toys, tea towels etc. is a good start but they could do better - be more shop, and do discounts for multiple purchases
    • Split staff into more specific roles - someone to do gifts and someone to sell tickets - both to give tourist information and directions etc.
    • Everything is digital and online these days - have an online website, sell gifts online (i.e. a visitor who planned to buy a gift but left before they could) and be less old-world like... use digital screens to promote theatre performances, Ipswich tourist attractions and promote history
    • Create an Ipswich Theme to entice visitors to the museums etc. Capture the imagination.
    • Be more welcoming and friendly - even if you are to anyone who looks "foreign" - have the same positive attitude and good customer service standards to anyone who might look like a "resident"

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  3. OP

    dan5Founder MemberStaff Member

    My verdict on the Explore Ipswich Visitor Guide is now available.

    I think on reflection, there was a reason why the guide was hard to find.. maybe they saw how bad it was and decided to take it off public view.

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