A TOURIST point in a rural market town has been forced to close after numbers using the service dwindled.

The hub in Leyburn was run by volunteers at the Dales Haven Guest House for the past seven years, following the closure of the Tourist Information Centre in 2011.

The project received two Making a Difference in Richmondshire Awards, including Community Group of the Year in 2013/14.

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Owners Martin Crowson and Alix Warland said: “There has been a continuous decline in footfall over the seven-year period, during which time smart phones, tablets and the mobile internet have transformed the way visitors access tourist information.”

Martin and Alix have owned the guest house for 11 years, and they were approached by Richmondshire District Council to take on the service when they planned to close both Leyburn and Richmond’s tourism centres.

Martin said: “We had the same thought as most people that the loss of the service would be seriously detrimental to the town.”

“We were overwhelmed with the support the project was given. We had an amazing group of people who were willing to give up their time.”

Over the first year they had 22,000 visitors but by 2015 this figure dropped to around 7,000.

There have been 25 local volunteers who kept the service going.

“It has been a great pleasure working with the tourism volunteers,” they added. “Their enthusiasm, commitment and love for the town made the project possible.

“That it lasted seven years is testament to their dedication and the project’s achievement.”

They developed a dedicated website during this time which will remain online at www.welcometoleyburn.co.uk