Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre has been in its’ current location for 20 years – opened in March 1999 by local MP at the time, Nick Harvey, it is situated in a prime spot, looking down the length of the award-winning beach, all the way to Putsborough.
Tourism has played a big part in Woolacombe and Mortehoe’s history and there has been active promotion of our beautiful coastline for many years. We have brochures dating back to the early 60’s, and no doubt they were in existence before then too, bearing in mind that the introduction of the railway from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe in 1847 saw the birth of tourism here. The Woolacombe Bay Hotel was built in 1887, and many more guesthouses and shops followed in the early 1900’s. Things have changed over the years, with the changing demands of visitors, and now the number of apartments far outweigh the serviced accommodation options, although there are still some lovely B&B and Hotels on offer.
The first information service started, we believe, in the 1960’s, when The Red Barn had a dedicated staff member and phone line at the front of the pub to assist visitors in finding accommodation – the idea being that it was in everyone’s interests to have people stay in the village for longer, as The Red Barn, and other businesses would all benefit.
A more official TIC started up sometime in the 1970’s, initially housed in the foyer of Hall 70 (now known as Woolacombe Village Hall) and later, back to The Red Barn in a temporary building in the car park. This was run by the Woolacombe & Mortehoe Publicity Association. In 1998, the Woolacombe & Mortehoe Tourism Association was formed, and the new building, to be shared with Mortehoe Parish Council, was purpose built. Funding for the new centre came from grants from the EU, Rural Development Commission, North Devon District Council, and Mortehoe Parish Council, as well as the Publicity Association, Chamber of Commerce, Parkin Estates and Lancaster Holdings, who all recognised the importance of promoting the area and having an Information Centre.
In the last 25 years, whilst I have been involved in TICs (first Ilfracombe for 7 years, and then Woolacombe for 18 so far!) the way in which Tourist Information Centres are run has changed dramatically. From receiving funding to run the centres, including everything from staff uniforms and the annual ‘tool kit’ (a wide selection of reference books, including enormous train and coach timetables!), these days there is no funding to be had, and we have to operate as a business to meet our overheads … a bit of a conundrum when people (both visitors and some businesses) still expect us to offer an information service for free.
If you call in and see us, you’ll see that we now provide lots of other services that complement the free information and extensive local knowledge on offer – everything from boat trip tickets, discounted attraction admission, Tramper and Beach Wheelchair hire, accommodation booking service, parking permits, buckets & spades, ice-creams, gifts, souvenirs, local crafts, postcards … a one-stop shop for all your holiday essentials … and all crucial in keeping the TIC open!
We are also very fortunate to have some 130 businesses who recognise the need for a Tourist Information Centre, and subscribe as members to generate much needed income for the TIC. In return, we not only promote their business, but the area as a whole. The internet and social media have wiped out the need for a holiday guide, although we do still produce an information pack that we will gladly send out to enquirers.
We spend many hours each week working ‘behind the scenes’ updating the content of the website, especially events and special offers, as well as posting frequently on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
We live and work in such a beautiful area. It is easy to post images and information about Woolacombe, Mortehoe and the surrounding areas.
In 2016, we strengthened our links with the National Trust, as they became partnered with us, and helped fund a partial refurbishment of the TIC. We continue to work closely with the Trust, hosting their annual Cadbury Easter Trail, selling Memberships and Gifts, and promoting their events and conservation work through the TIC.
In 2018/19 we were proud to be Silver Winners in the ‘Visitor Information Service of The Year’ Category in both the Devon Tourism Awards and South West Tourism Awards – we strive for excellent customer service and it is a pleasure to promote our beautiful corner of North Devon!
Why not call in and see us when you are passing?
We are open all year – 7 days a week from 10am- 5pm from Easter to October, and six mornings a week from November to March.
Online Shop: http://www.woolacombetourism.co.uk/shop