The wind of change is blowing

First published Friday, September 13, 2013

Here we are in September, and as I was listening to my iPod playing ‘Wind of Change’ by the Scorpions (remember that one?!) it got me thinking about where we are now and where we may be heading.

We have had the driest summer since 2006, which has been something of a relief for many in the tourist industry. The nice weather has brought the visitors out in their thousands, and with any luck they’ve been spending a little bit too. Add in the range of sporting events that Pembrokeshire has hosted this year, from the Tour of Pembrokeshire, to The Long Course Weekend, to Ironman, and this weekend the Red Bull Cliff Diving and we’ve had a good mix of ‘bonus’ activity to attract more people to come and visit.

Over the course of the next few weeks, Pembrokeshire Tourism, and quite possibly other organisations as well, will be undertaking some survey and research work to get a more in-depth understanding of just what this summer has meant for business, but, and it’s a fairly big BUT, there’s something else to bear in mind as well.

Time doesn’t stand still. The world continues to change. People change. Their needs, desires, wants, wishes and dreams change. Whilst research into how successful a season has been is important to be able to benchmark things like business growth, changes in visitor habits and so on, it’s also crucial that we don’t get so wrapped up in looking backwards that we forget to move forward.

The ‘landscape’ continues to change and evolve – whether it’s actual physical changes from new buildings to changes in footpaths and rights of way, or the political landscape, each and every one of us needs to maintain an awareness of what those changes are. Some we can’t control (much as we’d like to be able to change the weather on demand!), but others we can. When it comes to your business, your activity, your personal outlook, or that of your organisation, you are in charge. It is up to you!

At time of writing, from the perspective of Pembrokeshire Tourism, we are still waiting to hear the outcome of a Welsh Government review into the structures of the Regional Tourism Partnerships and the funding that they provide. Whilst we may not have the answer and outcome as yet, what we can’t afford to do is simply sit around and wait to see what that statement will be. We are continuing to evolve and develop what we do here at Pembrokeshire Tourism, introducing new ways of working with and for our members, and for the industry as whole.

It is the same for all businesses in the tourism industry. Sometimes the continuing progress of the business will be something as simple as investing in redecoration, an update to marketing materials or a new menu. Other times it may be a more sizeable investment in the structure, whether that be an extension or a new attraction. However, personally, I don’t know that all business development and evolution has to cost money.

Think about it. What can you offer that would be something different or new that will enhance your business? A simple newsletter communicating details of local events that are of interest to your customers perhaps (lots of ways of sending out professional ‘corporate’ mailshots for free and monitoring their success too). Or maybe ensuring a dinner reservation at the local restaurant is made as part of the accommodation booking.

The Welsh Government Strategy for Tourism has a clear focus on delivering quality, growth and a sustainable industry. However it is very much up to each and everyone of us involved in that industry to do this. There are no magic wands, the grant funds are limited, and there is no ‘quick fix’ either. It is fair to say that the days of doing things the same way as we’ve always done are gone. Opportunities are there to be taken, if you are prepared to do things differently and do different things. As Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.

So, whilst you recover from a busy summer, and no doubt take some well earned time off at some point too, don’t forget to keep your imagination active – the autumnal winds are arriving, but so are the opportunities to explore, expand, and deliver great things for our businesses, and our visitors. Pembrokeshire truly is a place without equal (to me anyway), lets keep it that way and for the right reasons!

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