First published Monday December 9, 2013
2014 is just around the corner, although we’ve only just got used to writing 2013 on everything – time really does go so quickly these days! This year has seen the launch of the Welsh Government ‘Partnership for Growth’ Tourism Strategy, preceded by the launch of the Destination Pembrokeshire Partnership Management Plan, and perhaps another significant launch to consider is that of the Swansea Bay City Region.
More locally, we have seen the best (driest) summer since 2006, and a general ‘upturn’ in fortunes, however small, across many sectors of our industry, with a more positive feel in the air about how things are shaping up for the future. Naturally there continues to be an air of caution in with that, and whilst the economy is showing signs of improvement, there are still challenges ahead as public sector funding reduces and various services are reviewed.
However, all that aside, here’s a few thoughts on what 2014 may have in store (and as a disclaimer, any bets placed on the following are made at your own risk!):
Pembrokeshire businesses will have to continue to strengthen partnership working to ensure delivery of an excellent value and superb standard of service for all, whether local visitors or those from further afield. The days of operating in isolation are largely over, and whilst it may not always come naturally to some to look to share tips on best practice, doing so provides an overall raising of the bar when it comes to the visitor experience;
There will be further changes to local and regional support mechanisms whether in the County Council, the Regional Tourism Partnership or through the Swansea Bay City Region. Ok, so this isn’t exactly a startling revelation, but it goes without saying that the public sector is under pressure to save money, and as such the way it operates is going to change. The private and third sectors may be able to influence some of those changes through consultations, and on other occasions may benefit from being able to provide some of the services previously delivered by the public sector, but whatever happens, without once again stating a clear mandate for partnership working, opportunities will be missed and negative impacts felt more strongly. Complacency and a belief that ‘it’s always worked this way so why change it’ will have no place in successful operations in 2014;
The tourism industry will have to work hard to reinforce the value it carries in economic terms. Here in Pembrokeshire, tourism contributes something in the region of £520million per year to the local economy. It is a vital source of income and employment for thousands. However, without ensuring that people at all levels and in all walks of life understand this, the industry may end up bearing the brunt of downscaling of services elsewhere. Have you spoken to your local councillor recently about the contribution you and your business makes to the local economy? If not, why not? Have you had the same conversation with your local AM or MP? Make 2014 the year you get to know these people;
Throughout the county, we will need to work together to ‘educate’ everyone about our industry. The word ‘tourism’ suggests people coming in from outside, however here in Pembrokeshire we have a ‘Visitor Economy’ – when we leave our place of residence to go for a day out elsewhere in the county, we become a visitor. We spend money in shops, we buy food and drink in outlets, we visit some of the local attractions and take in the sights. We all need to understand that we service and support a local market all year round as well as the visitors who come to stay here;
We will have weather! It will be a mixed bag of sunshine and showers, gales and glowing warm evenings. There is little we can do about it…..! What we can do though is make sure we know enough about what is on offer throughout the county to provide advice and guidance to those who are visiting so that that can get the most out of their time here, and enjoy good value for money, and a great experience wherever they go.
So whilst none of the above is exactly groundbreaking, it is perhaps a starting point for some revised thinking for next year. There will always be things we can’t control, but when it comes to what we offer, and how we offer it, we can control that, and make a difference too. It may be tough to smile when you’re not feeling at your best, or the endless to do list has just been lengthened by another 40 jobs, but still, we are here to give our visitors the best experience possible, and encourage them to return, so in 2014, take a moment each day to pause, then smile! We are fortunate to live and work in a stunning and special part of the UK, let’s share that with everyone we meet.