What does the future hold?

First published Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The front page of the Western Telegraph this week is leading with the following headline: “Questions raised over future of National Park”. Certainly an eye catching headline!Closer inspection of the supporting article (page 4) reveals a continuation of a series of interviews that have been carried out with Cllr Jamie Adams, leader of Pembrokeshire County Council by the newspaper, in which he comments on the current duplication of some activities by the two major public sector bodies in the county, namely the County Council and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

There are, without doubt, many who will have already asked similar questions about this duplication. No doubt over the course of the next few months or so, such activities will come under scrutiny by those charged with distributing funds to these bodies, and others, and a move to continue delivering significant savings may well see major changes on the ground. Time will tell, but it would be wise to be prepared for changes!

The final paragraph of the article however, was of particular interest to me. “Other areas of discussion at the meeting focused on the promotion of tourism, with three bodies currently promoting Pembrokeshire, and how savings could be made there.”

You will recall in the last couple of weeks we have seen the launch of the Destination Pembrokeshire Management Plan, a document produced by these three bodies (namely Pembrokeshire Tourism, Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority). Up until now the ‘responsibilities’ of these organisations could have been described at a very simplistic level as the following: Pembrokeshire Tourism – supporting the businesses in the industry and raising the bar; Pembrokeshire County Council – marketing Pembrokeshire outside of the county; Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority – protecting the natural landscape that makes Pembrokeshire special. These are, granted, very basic role descriptions, however fairly close to the fundamental role of each. It is probably also worth noting at this point that neither the County Council or the National Park has a statutory duty to promote tourism. As a trade association/membership organisation, Pembrokeshire Tourism also has a different primary role, existing to support the trade and its members.

However, minor technicalities aside, the role of these three bodies is indeed being looked at. All three bodies work together through the Destination Pembrokeshire Partnership in a way not yet seen elsewhere in Wales. However there are challenges to be faced, and a requirement to save costs across the board, something that is universally accepted. Such challenges and cost saving exercises do bring with them opportunities. Rather than moan about cuts and so on, it’s is a great time to ask questions like “What can we do differently?” and “What different things can we do?”

Underlying all of this however is one very important theme. We know that tourism is vitally important to the economy of Pembrokeshire, contributing in excess of £500million and supporting over 16,000 full time equivalent posts through direct and indirect employment. The vast majority of this income, and employment, is generated by the private sector i.e. by the micro and SME businesses that operate on the front line, delivering products and services for the visitor.

So…….. What does the future hold? We would all dearly love to have a crystal ball, and the ability to answer that question with absolute confidence. At present there are no clear cut answers, indeed some of the questions around the whole concept are yet to be determined. However, there are some certainties – budgets are going to continue to come under pressure within the public sector, which in turn will mean a change in provision and services to the private sector. The roles and responsibilities of public sector bodies may well change, merge, maybe even disappear. What will remain constant is the private sector – individuals and their businesses out there, getting on with the job in hand, delivering what the customer wants, if not more.

Who will be there for those businesses, those individuals? Who will continue to offer guidance, advice, opportunities to talk with others in the trade, be their voice in the potentially complex and ever changing public sector? That I can answer. Pembrokeshire Tourism. In an industry that is rapidly evolving, and against a back drop of changes and challenges in the public sector, Pembrokeshire Tourism will be standing firm, ensuring that the trade gets the support it needs, and that it’s voice is heard. Talk to us, tell us what’s important to you, and let us help you determine what the future will hold.

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