THE FIRST 'visitor ambassadors' have been enlisted in the Northern Dales.
Shop owners as well as local tourist attraction operators in Bedale have signed up to create a bank of 'local' tourist information providers.
Bedale's tourism ambassadors with a Thorpe Perrow Owl
They are installing racks of information leaflets on their premises and encouraging staff to act as ambassadors for the popular market town. Each venue will also display 'information' stickers enabling visitors to locate them.
However, the move follows the closure of a number of traditional Tourist Information centres across the Hambleton District in a move aimed at keeping the Authority within budget.
Hambleton District Council was capped by central government last year - for introducing what ministers regarded as a high percentage Council Tax rise - forcing the widespread slashing of budgets. One of those is the tourism budget, from which £25,000 has had to be lost.
Bedale was the first to lose its TIC this Spring, but Northallerton, Easingwold and Great Ayton will follow suit - leaving Thirsk as the district's only nationally networked Tourist Information Centre.
Nickory Nook, Simpsons florists, Café 34 and the Post Office are the first members of the Bedale scheme. They are joined by attractions 'Big Sheep, Little Cow', Thorpe Perrow Arboretum, Aerial Extreme and Bedale Museum, as well as the town's leisure centre.
"This is a very new and exciting way to deliver tourist information," said Hambleton's Tourism Manager, David Shields.
"The very people who know the most about the area - the people who live and work there - will be able to help our visitors. And because these businesses are open all year round the information will be far more accessible than in the past when we only ran a seasonal service.
"We recognise that what is important is a local service - what to visit, what is happening and where to stay - and who better than local people to deliver it."
Businesses interested in signing up for the scheme should contact David Shields on 01609 767163; Carol Clark on 01677 422125 or Catherine Megson on 01677 425099.