Why every town needs its Croydon Visitor Centre

By - Tuesday 12th May, 2015

Croydon Tech City leader Jonny Rose delivers a eulogy to the dearly departed visitor centre

Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

Croydon Visitor Centre has closed for business 

Like many people, I was saddened to see Croydon Visitor Centre close at the beginning of the month.

The visitor centre was an ongoing service provided by Croydon’s Business Improvement District which covers the entire town centre and represents approximately 580 levy payers whose contributions go towards making the town centre safer and more accessible, and improve the perception and image of the town.

According to Mat Sims, CEO of Croydon BID, the visitor centre has served 700,000 people since it opened in 2007. Despite its continuing popularity, the organisation was served notice by the developers Stanhope/Schroder’s, which is using the land next to East Croydon Station for its major Ruskin Square development – including an uber-cool Shoreditch transplant in the shape of Boxpark.

The benefits of a visitor centre

So, what does a visitor centre actually do?

Visitor centres provide visitors to a location with information on the area’s attractions, lodgings, maps, and other items relevant to tourism. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a physical site that curates and directs information about the treasures within the largest town in Europe.

Even as a local, it’s easy to forget that Croydon is more than just the town centre. As I admitted earlier in year, my knowledge of Croydon places of interest is embarrassingly scant: Have you been to the water tower in Park Hill? Do you know about the David Lean Cinema? Tried to do one of the Wandle Park rambles? Checked out that windmill in Shirley? Been inside Croydon Minster? There are so many interesting things happening in and around Croydon that it should be overwhelming for anyone who actually takes the time to explore, but it’s not always easy to find without the expertise of a local guide.

One argument that has been posited to fundamentally challenge the need for visitor centres is that advances in mobile internet technology will eventually make them obsolete. However, internet-based information provision has certain disadvantages when compared with face to face interaction at a visitor centre. The key problems are the unreliability of user generated content, which may account for the fact that visits to official websites are still rising steadily. For any visitor without mobile internet access or anyone who has a specific need or interest not catered for by generalist websites, a visitor centre will always remain a valuable resource. Finally the internet argument takes no account of the unquantifiable value of a visitor centre’s role in providing a welcome to visitors.

Visitor centres are more than just a place for bus times. Tourism development and tourism marketing are fundamentally tied to local economic, civic and environmental well-being.

Tourism development and tourism marketing are fundamentally tied to local economic, civic & environmental well-being. They all influence the fortunes of each other for better or for worse. Research into the economic impact of tourist information centres (TICs) by VisitBritain confirms that destinations benefit from hosting informed visitors who will stay longer and spend more. The provision of high quality visitor information plays a key role in enhancing the overall visitor experience by creating a positive image of a destination, providing a hospitable and friendly welcome and by creating a genuine sense of place. It presents an opportunity to inspire visitors to explore the tourism product that is distinctive to a certain locality, such as culture, heritage, local produce and, just as importantly, the people. This can lead to wider improvements in the performance of the visitor economy and generate local benefits that directly support the principles of ‘wise growth’.

Bring back Croydon Visitor Centre

The economics of Croydon Visitor Centre meant that it almost certainly was run at a loss. However – not wishing to prejudice any deals that may (or may not) be happening behind the scenes – I do hope that Croydon Visitor Centre can find itself a new home near to its original spot. Whilst visitor centres may not be a money-spinner in these straitened times, there are some things that you can’t put a price on – and that includes information.

Every town needs its visitor centre. Even more so when it’s the largest town in Europe.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    Excellent article Jonny!

  • blath8@googlemail.com

    I agree wholeheartedly. Very short-sighted to lose this valuable asset from our town.