Challenges or Opportunities – what is your view?

First published Friday, November 29, 2013

Almost daily there will be a news article on a website or a media report about another cut to public services, or a company restructuring resulting in job loses, or a change of plans brought about by financial uncertainty.

Whilst the overall economic ‘mood’ appears to be improving ever so slightly, there are obviously still challenges to be overcome, particularly in the public sector, and Pembrokeshire is no different. Both the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, and Pembrokeshire County Council are having to make some tough decisions at present on how to allocate budgets for the next financial year whilst ensuring targets on savings are met.

This in turn may well mean that some of the services we are used to receiving in their current format will change significantly having an impact on both ourselves, our own businesses, friends, family, and also an impact on our visitors. This obviously presents us with some challenges, but equally I believe it presents us with some great opportunities as well.

Change is inevitable, and whether we like it or not, it’s happening now, and will keep on happening. Individually we all have our own views on whether it’s right or wrong, for better or for worse, and no doubt have the occasional moan about it over dinner, morning coffee or down the pub. However, whilst there are of course some changes we can’t control (we’ve had no say in the amount that the PCNPA or PCC have had to save off their budgets), there are other aspects we can influence and control.

When consultations are presented asking for input on proposed changes to the delivery of certain services, make sure your voice is heard! It’s no good complaining that you don’t agree with the outcome if you’ve not at least made some attempt to influence it. We all know that sometimes things will still happen that we don’t like, but at least if we’d added our voice we’ve made the effort to determine the direction.

Going a step beyond that though, when things are changing, and quite rapidly, it is an ideal time to seize the opportunity to look at what we do, how we do it, why we do it, where we do it, when we do it. Just because something has always been done the same way since time immemorial, does that mean we have to keep doing the same thing over and over again? Just because businesses at times have operated independently of their neighbours, each fighting for their individual market share, does that mean that fight has to continue, potentially to the bitter end for one or more of those businesses?

We hear a great deal these days about partnership working, collaborative working, networking and so on. Whilst the descriptive terms may change, the concept is not a new one. Think back centuries – markets in town squares, with individual traders coming together to offer their good and services, and indeed trading between each other were common place, and groups of likeminded individuals and or businesses have been around for many many years in one form or another, all working towards a collective goal (or at least trying to!) to achieve a better outcome for all concerned.

It may well be an uncomfortable idea at times to ‘partner’ with a business that essentially can be viewed as a competitor. However, for me, and the team here at Pembrokeshire Tourism, it’s about taking a longer term view. No one expects anyone to be divulging the most private details of their business operation (and if they do they are clearly not embracing the true concept of working together), but by coming together to share ideas that could benefit the whole, or work out a referral system (e.g. I’m fully booked this weekend, but I can recommend X to you) that results in business still coming to the area rather than going off somewhere else, it can only be a good thing. Equally if there is a concern or issue that is shared by many, by uniting to voice that rather than each trying to outshout the next, the message will be heard more clearly, and have a greater impact.

Pembrokeshire Tourism exists to encourage growth and development within the visitor economy here in the county. Tourism accounts for a huge income each year to Pembrokeshire, and as a result supports a vast number of businesses and jobs. We also have our own internal visitor economy – if you live in Tenby and go out for the day to St Davids, or Haverfordwest, or Narberth, you become a visitor, contributing to the visitor economy. Throughout the county we have businesses ranging from the smallest individual sole trader to the largest theme park or attraction, all setting out to earn a living, pay the bills, and one day benefit from the success that is strived for and worked for, as retirement arrives and the chance to relax a little more appears (we hope!)

Now, more than ever, is the time when working together is so important. Yes public sector cuts will have an impact, and it will mean doing things differently and doing different things, and whilst we may have a brief moan about it, move on, move forward, together to make a difference. Together, as individual people, individual businesses, working together to achieve a shared goal and ambitions, we truly can achieve so much. We are here to support that across Pembrokeshire, and with your voice and input both from local community/town centre level and from the broader ‘tourism community’ in the county we can and will prove that Pembrokeshire is the place to live, work, and play, with something for everyone and for every pocket.

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