First published Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Thanks to Google Alerts, an article from Wales Online came to my attention this morning, in which Manon Williams, Chief Executive Officer for tourism and marketing Wales, talks about the need to ‘professionalise’ the industry at all levels. She comments that the industry is seen as providing predominantly seasonal, low paid work and yet is vitally important to the Welsh economy.
Having paused long enough to have a cup of tea and ‘calm down’ a little, I came back and re-read the news article (link below). There are a significant number in the industry across Wales, and a strong core here in Pembrokeshire, who have been saying all of the above and a fair bit more for some considerable amount of time. We already know that the industry has, by and large, been hugely undervalued both in terms of the jobs it supports and the revenue it generates for the economy for quite some time. We already know that it has seen a sustained growth in the last few years, despite the economic downturn.
To read that it is necessary to bring a more professional aspect to the industry, whilst correct, is at the same time somewhat frustrating. The work of trade associations, work force development groups linking the trade and education providers, and the sterling work of many in the industry generally, has over the last few years been doggedly moving towards giving the tourism ‘world’ a more professional edge. Work streams have been developed to provide specific tourism skills training, academics have developed degree level courses in consultation with the trade to deliver the managerial skills and attitudes required, all with the aim of improving the wider understanding of the value of tourism. There are already a number of well established professional operators in the industry who will, no doubt, be feeling a little ‘miffed’ that they are possibly not viewed as ‘professional’, which could be the interpretation of some reading the article.
As such, when confronted with an article stating that there is a need to ‘encourage professionalism at all levels’, there is a slight air of ‘?????’ that descends. I support the view of Ms Williams, and of course, through the work that Pembrokeshire Tourism, and our partners in the region undertake, continue to provide the skills training, general education and progressive thinking that is required to deliver this shift. I am however, still, frustrated that it is only now that someone in a position of some importance in the Welsh tourism ‘scene’ is coming out and saying what many have been saying for years.
Yet again, tourism in Wales is being pulled in to the political game, and getting caught up in the middle. On the one hand there is the ‘Partnership for Growth’ strategy encouraging growth in the industry, an improvement in quality and more, and yet on the on the other hand, there is a decreasing resource to provide support for this. I hope that at long last, given the comments of Ms Williams, there will be a notable shift to develop greater investment and support for the tourism industry in Wales. In the meantime, I will continue to encourage those in the industry and on the ‘front line’ of it, to work together to show just how crucial they are to the economy, locally and nationally, whilst looking for as many opportunities as possible to recognise their contribution and remind them that they are valued and important.