Foreign visitors to St Albans face language barrier at makeshift Tourist Information Centre

PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 August 2016

The Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town Hall has been closed

The Tourist Information Centre in the Old Town Hall has been closed


There have been further complaints about the near non-existent tourist information service in St Albans city centre, with a businessman slamming it as “disappointing”.

Foreign visitors to St Albans no longer have access to printed guides in their own languageForeign visitors to St Albans no longer have access to printed guides in their own language

Following an article in last week’s Herts Advertiser about the temporary closure of the Tourist Information Centre the local resident, who did not wish to be named, said that relocating a decreased resource to the Alban Arena was not good enough.

St Albans district council closed the centre in the old Town Hall while the landmark building undergoes a transformation into a new museum and art gallery.

Remnants of the service – primarily its brochures – have been relocated to the Alban Arena, until the new museum reopens.

But, the businessman said: “You can’t easily find signage to the Arena. Also, the centre used to provide leaflets for non-English speakers, in German, Spanish, French and Italian.

“When I collect people from overseas from the airport, it’s nice to give them a leaflet in their own language, so they can see what to visit, and where to eat.

“I asked at the theatre whether they had any of these “Enjoy St Albans” mini-guides in foreign languages, and was told to ask the council.”

He continued: “We should have these available, as they show what a wonderful place St Albans is – it’s a historical location.

“The current level of service is below what I would expect, and very disappointing. You wouldn’t expect foreign visitors to have to look for a sign, then search for the location of the service – which should have remained in a prominent position.

“St Albans should be looking to promote itself, as people’s families come to visit from overseas, and it seems odd that they have cut back on this service.

“I’m sure if you conducted a survey, visitors would say the tourist information service was at the bottom of the league. They have downgraded it.”

The council’s portfolio holder for community engagement, Cllr Beric Read, said foreign visitors could access an electronic version of the mini-guides online.

He added: “At the moment we don’t have a main Tourist Information Centre, so we have to use the space we have available, and we can’t provide everything.

“I’m not saying we can’t improve the current situation, but the service is limited by space.”

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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