Oxford City Council is saddened to hear of the job losses announced today by Experience Oxfordshire and the closure of the Visitor Information Centre.
We have been the largest financial supporter of Experience Oxfordshire, providing the equivalent of £1.8m since 2011, and will continue to provide free office accommodation to enable them to continue their work. Given the closure of the Visitor Information Centre we hope a new model will emerge to support the visitor welcome across the county, with a much greater focus on providing information digitally, online and through apps.
The visitor economy is of huge importance nationally and also across Oxfordshire and is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of our immediate response, Experience Oxfordshire has benefited from just under £100,000 business rate relief and other financial funding, administered by Oxford City Council, and is eligible to bid for additional grant through our recently announced Discretionary Fund. We will continue to work with other public and private sector partners across the county, and with central Government, to develop a plan to support our economic recovery, including key sectors such as the visitor economy.
Oxford City Council is also experiencing significant financial challenges as a result of the pandemic, with a funding shortfall of over £10 million this year due to the crisis. We are therefore not in a position to spend more Oxford taxpayers’ money funding on a Destination Management Organisation at this time.
Tourism forms a major part of Oxfordshire’s economy, employing around 39,000 jobs, nearly 40 per cent of which are in the city. International tourism will clearly be impacted due to pandemic so we all need to put a greater focus on encouraging domestic tourism. We are currently working with Experience Oxfordshire, businesses, the University of Oxford and others to prepare the city centre for a restart from next week. We want to ensure it is as safe, welcoming and attractive as possible for shoppers and visitors alike.
Cllr Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for the City Centre, Covered Market and Culture