It’s good to talk.

First published Friday, December 20, 2013

Communication. It is vital to the success of any business, and a whole lot more besides. Without it, assumptions are made, rightly or usually wrongly, people become confused as to what they are supposed to be doing, or carry on regardless and things in general fall apart.

Throughout the course of this year, we’ve been speaking to a wide range of people, from members, to local councillors, to politicians and journalists. In doing so we have increased our knowledge and understanding of the challenges, and opportunities, that face the industry, and also been able to share that with people who need to be made aware of and understand the potential impacts of these. On occasion we have been able to respond to and assist with overcoming challenges, and we have certainly taken advantage of opportunities to develop and strengthen what we do in supporting the industry.

At the local level (i.e. within Pembrokeshire) we have in the main been successful in communicating back and forth between members, the wider trade, other organisations and our local representatives. As a result of our membership of organisations such as the Wales Tourism Alliance and good links with AMs, MPs and a number of journalists, we have also been well placed to share and gather information with and from other sources across Wales, once again raising the issues that need to be discussed and understood.

In the coming weeks, the Welsh Government will be making a decision on a tender issued for the provision of Tourism Industry Communication and Representation. There is a second tender also due to be issued for the provision of sector focussed business support, but at time of writing all that is known is that it will be sent out early next year.  Currently a significant amount of these activities are provided by the Wales Tourism Alliance and through the channels of the Regional Tourism Partnerships (currently the subject of an open consultation and review).

What needs to be borne in mind in amongst all this, is just how valuable the tourism industry and the ‘visitor economy’ are to Wales, and to regions within that. Here in Pembrokeshire the industry generates around £520million a YEAR for the local economy, driven largely by micro and SME businesses, working exceptionally hard to deliver products, services and experiences that people will enjoy. We continue to be told by various think tanks, government departments and more that tourism is vital, that it is a growing industry, that we must support it, ‘professionalise’ it, develop it.

The trade, and the trade associations and membership organisations are doing this, and have been doing so for some considerable amount of time, all the while communicating upwards about the issues the industry faces, the challenges, and what could be offered to facilitate greater opportunities. At times, it has felt that this falls largely on either deaf ears, or into the laps of people who have had their hands tied by red tape. Both are equally as destructive. If the industry isn’t listened to, or action taken when it’s promised, disillusionment and dissatisfaction sets in, and so begins the decline, the rot and the collapse of a crucial sector in terms of jobs, economic value and potential growth.

The next few weeks are going to be interesting, as we wait to see what will happen in terms of decisions on tenders and the opening or otherwise of channels of communication. What I hope for, and what will actually happen, I suspect may be two different things, and so with that in mind, I will continue to work closely with our members, our trade partners in the county and in neighbouring counties to provide support, advice, training and opportunities to talk openly about the things that matter. Furthermore the full team here at Pembrokeshire Tourism will continue to encourage tourism businesses to go that extra mile, to take on the challenges and convert them to opportunities, to drive the changes that will undoubtedly come. 2014 will be a crucial year for the industry, but by working together, supporting each other and listening to each other, we will be able to speak with a united voice and ensure that we are heard where we need to be heard.

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