Case study

Visitor information centre manager — Michele Sims

Michele has developed a range of people, budgeting and management skills to help her manage a busy visitor information centre in Lincoln. Find out her advice for getting a job in this competitive sector

How did you get your job?

After graduating with a BA (Hons) Tourism, I applied to an advert to work as a casual tourist information assistant. Within six months, I had secured a permanent job share tourist information officer role, then moved into a full-time tourist information officer post. With further experience in this role, I was able to take on the visitor information centre manager's role.

What's a typical working day like?

Each day I respond to a range of enquiries from visitors to the centre, by email and over the phone and also sell gifts, souvenirs and tickets for local events. I also make sure that the visitor information centre is presentable, clean and tidy at all times.

I carry out general admin throughout the day, doing any tasked project work, updating staff rotas and addressing any staff-related issues. I also ensure that window displays are in good order and that the stock merchandising is current and engaging for optimum sales.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of the job is particularly enjoyable. I love working and engaging with lots of different people on a day-to-day basis, for example fellow staff, visitors from all over the world, local businesses, the destination marketing organisation, local authorities, the local business improvement district, trade guilds and tourism attractions.

What are the challenges?

As the job is so varied and fast paced it can be difficult to allocate enough time for job tasks. Multi-tasking is a good skill to have as you may find that you are working on three or more different things at the same time.

In what way is your degree relevant?

The degree helped me gain an overall understanding of the tourism industry and its challenges. I was also able to develop my research and report writing skills.

It also helped enormously with my self-confidence and I learned presentation skills and how to speak publicly.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Go into the business and ask to speak to the manager to ask for a temporary job or placement while you are studying. Handing a CV to a member of staff is not enough as first impressions count enormously. If the manager isn’t there, ask when they will be or make an appointment. Building rapport with the manager ensures that you are showing confidence and are remembered. Back it up with a comprehensive CV and contact information. If you're unsuccessful the first time, don’t worry about going back and asking again. If your qualifications are limited, focus on your strengths and the potential value you could be to that company. There is always the opportunity to learn on the job.
  • You need to show an awareness of the local tourism industry, so do your research with the local authority development plans and how tourism locally fits in with those. You need to show you have customer service skills and, ideally, previous experience of management through, for example, managing a project at university or supervising members of staff in a previous job role. You should also be a people person who is welcoming and approachable, have good budgeting skills and the ability to use your initiative with income generating ideas.
  • To achieve a senior management role, be patient and be prepared to start from the bottom. As tourist information centres are mostly local authority managed, jobs may be advertised internally first and it may be possible to transfer from another department within the council.

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