Partnership… Strategy…. What is in a name……

First published Monday, June 24, 2013

When someone mentions the word ‘Pembrokeshire’ to you, what comes to mind? Similarly, if someone were to say ‘Wales’, what images, associations and so on does it create for you?

Now, I know as well as the next person, that everyone will have their own views on this. Speaking personally I find it quite challenging to come up with a concise explanation of what Pembrokeshire means to me. Yes it’s my home (and I’ve been fortunate to experience the warm welcome of the residents here, having not been born here), it is where I work, and where I have many friends. Beyond that, how would I describe the county? This is where it gets a little more challenging. There are so many positive things to say about Pembrokeshire that I could easily fill a whole page with words, as I am sure many others could. Likewise, if asked to describe Wales and what it offers, it would be a similar challenge.

Why does this matter though? The last two weeks have seen both Pembrokeshire and Wales launch strategic plans and visions for the tourist industry. Both of these documents are important for those with the decision making responsibilities, and those operating on the front line. It can at times appear that there is a noticeable gap between the two sides, which is where organisations such as Pembrokeshire Tourism come into their own.

As a membership organisation, Pembrokeshire Tourism is primarily interested in supporting, guiding, offering advice and training, and further tangible cost saving benefits to front line tourism businesses and their suppliers. Further to this, we have a direct line to the trade to pick up information from them about what is working, what isn’t working, what they want and what they need. Dependent on the query or concern, we are able to provide immediate support and assistance, other times it can be a longer process.

On the other side of this, we have direct links to local, regional and national decision makers. At times they will come to us to ask for information about the trade, other times they will ask us to pass on information. Essentially it is about working in partnership across the board, a theme that is coming through very clearly in both the Destination Pembrokeshire Management Plan, and the Welsh Government Strategy for Tourism 2013 – 2020.

What does partnership working really mean? We’ve all seen committees come and go where there has been many a fanfare about working together, and the end result has appeared to be anything but. Likewise strategy documents are produced, welcomed, celebrated even, then sit on a shelf gathering dust. The key question to ask, for me at least, is ‘What must be done to change things?’

There is a saying, I’m not sure where it originates, that goes along the lines of ‘Be the change you want to see’. Essentially, if things are to change someone, or a group of people have to do something different to the usual routine. To achieve the vision of both the Destination Pembrokeshire Management Plan, and the Welsh Government Strategy For Tourism, the industry as a whole is going to have to stand up and do something different.

Whilst it could be argued that I am a little biased, I do believe that this is where Pembrokeshire Tourism will come into its own, and move up a gear. With 12 years of industry representation, membership support and partnership working as a starting point, as the industry, and the demands upon it, continue to change, Pembrokeshire Tourism provides a central reference point for businesses to get together and develop new ways of working. With the imminent recruitment of a researcher, in addition to new membership officers, the team is building on the existing strengths, and bringing new elements in too.

There is much more to come from within the walls of the Pembrokeshire Tourism offices over the next few months. To go back to the headline question, in our name we have Pembrokeshire and Tourism – two essential elements in this county. If you want to make a difference to both, join us, me and the team here, and together we can show what happens when strategy and partnership are effectively combined.

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