Tourism officers/destination managers develop and promote tourism in order to attract visitors and generate significant economic benefits for a particular region or site.

They may work for local authorities, but are now increasingly employed within public/private destination management organisations, public agencies or partnerships.

The role is varied and may include many different types of work. Key areas include marketing, visitor management and the development of tourism products, services and facilities. Depending on the level it may involve strategic planning, particularly in local authorities.

Economic development or urban and rural regeneration is also an increasingly common part of a tourism role, and tourism officers, therefore, usually work closely with residents and businesses in a local community in order to support the local economy.

Responsibilities

As well as maintaining visitor services, tourism officers are usually involved in strategic planning and development. Their work involves liaising with businesses, the public and public agencies, as well as behind-the-scenes preparation and planning.

Typical activities include:

  • producing and commissioning tourist information, including art work, and writing press releases and copy for tourism guides/newsletters;
  • setting up and attending exhibitions and holiday shows;
  • organising special and seasonal events and festivals;
  • devising and planning tours, and arranging itineraries;
  • liaising with local operators, the media, designers and printers;
  • managing staff, budgets and staff training needs;
  • ordering products and services;
  • providing funding and business advice and sending e-newsletters to local businesses;
  • developing e-tourism platforms, including websites, and constructing business databases;
  • writing and presenting reports for committees;
  • planning and writing funding applications;
  • product development;
  • giving talks to local parties, community groups and schools, and handling media enquiries.

Strategic aspects of the work include:

  • commissioning and/or producing tourism strategies and economic impact studies for implementation;
  • lobbying the industry and government on strategic matters such as quality assessed accommodation, collation of national/international statistics;
  • devising and coordinating marketing campaigns;
  • undertaking market research with members of the public and visitors to particular attractions;
  • providing a range of information on local resources and facilities;
  • supporting the local tourism industry through providing promotional opportunities;
  • encouraging the creation of a tourism association or similar body;
  • running training courses to encourage networking and economic growth in the tourism industry.

Salary

  • Salaries at entry level are in the region of £15,000 to £19,000, depending on the employer and geographical location.
  • The range of typical salaries after two to five years in the role fall between: £21,000 and £28,000; and after five years: £30,000 and £40,000 for a management position.

Salaries vary depending on the type of employer and the area of tourism involved. Salaries also depend on line-management responsibility for other tourism personnel.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Tourism officers often work a standard 37-hour week, but might be required to work unsocial hours in the evenings and at weekends when attending meetings, events and exhibitions.

What to expect

  • The work is usually office based, but may involve work outside and at different locations during the working day.
  • Self-employment or freelance work is possible, after gaining a good level of experience in the sector.
  • Jobs are available in most geographical areas. Due to the cuts to local government funding there are fewer dedicated local authority tourism officer roles. The tourism function is more likely to be part of an economic development officer role, or be located within an arm's length destination management organisation, a city-centre management team or Business Improvement District.
  • Setting up exhibitions and events can be physically demanding, especially if you are working alone.
  • The job may be stressful when you are combining working to tight deadlines, attending meetings and dealing directly with members of the public.
  • Invitations to new exhibitions and entertainment venues can be an attraction of working in this industry.
  • Absence from home at night and overseas work or travel may be required.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • tourism management;
  • marketing;
  • business/management;
  • journalism;
  • modern languages;
  • media studies;
  • European studies;
  • urban/rural regeneration.

Personal qualities, skills and relevant experience, particularly of working within a customer-focused or tourism role, are often cited as more important than your degree subject. A sandwich degree with a year spent in the field is often seen as attractive to employers.

A range of undergraduate (and postgraduate) qualifications are available in tourism, tourism management and heritage management. It is important to contact individual institutions to identify your particular areas of interest. The professional body for tourism destination managers is the Tourism Management Institute (TMI), which has a list of TMI recognised university tourism courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level on its website.

Entry without a degree or HND is sometimes possible with relevant experience.

A postgraduate qualification is not normally required. However, if your first degree is not directly relevant, a tourism/marketing qualification may increase your chances of employment, particularly if combined with relevant experience. Search for postgraduate courses in tourism management.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • commercial awareness;
  • wide ranging IT skills;
  • flexibility;
  • resourcefulness;
  • the ability to produce or deliver a quality product or service on a limited budget;
  • excellent communication, presentation and interpersonal skills;
  • creativity;
  • an eye for design;
  • local knowledge and a lively interest in the sector.

The ability to drive and/or a willingness to travel is essential.

Stamina is required to work under pressure and cope with long hours and, on occasion, physically demanding work, particularly in transporting publicity material and leaflets.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is essential, for example as a tourism assistant or in marketing, museums, economic development or information work. It is important to gain as much experience as possible in related activities, for example:

  • helping at events;
  • at a tourist information centre/attraction;
  • or in a local authority leisure department.

Holiday work, volunteering and casual work are all valuable.

Employers

Vacancies for tourism officer posts are rare and competition is fierce, especially in larger resorts.

Tourism officer roles are found in local authorities, Destination Management Organisations (DMOs), National Parks and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). If tourism is a significant part of the regional economy, the Local Economic Partnership (LEP) may prioritise the delivery of tourism within their strategic economic plan.

County, district and borough councils may employ tourism or marketing/visitor development officers to market and develop visitor attractions and tourist destinations.

Increasingly, most employers in this area expect post holders to become involved with economic development, strategic planning and regeneration issues, in addition to the more traditional tourism activities.

The private sector, which includes private heritage sites, visitor attractions and leisure companies, also provides employment opportunities. There may be opportunities to work for private development companies and consortia undertaking project marketing and development.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies rarely advertise vacancies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Tourism officers can access training courses and seminars through key professional bodies such as the:

Courses cover both general and specialist areas. Professional membership can also provide invaluable networking and other professional development opportunities.

Tourism officers who work for local authorities may be able to access council training programmes in areas such as:

  • funding applications;
  • report writing;
  • IT skills;
  • personal development;
  • presentation skills;
  • networking.

Private employers may fund training in a specialised area, as required by the demands of a particular project.

Most of a tourism officer's training is gained on the job - through working with colleagues or by learning from the development of a specific project.

Postgraduate tourism qualifications are also available and can help develop a particular career focus. The TMI runs a Postgraduate Certificate in Destination Management, which consists of three modules to be studied online, part-time, over the course of a year.

The TMI web site gives details of courses which have met the TMI criteria and a fast track to Associate membership (ATMI).

Career prospects

Relevant on-the-job experience is essential for career development. Due to the casual nature of work experience, it may take some years to progress to a tourism officer post.

Specialisation in resorts or cities is possible. As local authorities often employ only one tourism officer, opportunities to progress are fairly limited without relocation.

Once you have obtained a tourism officer post, further progression is possible by moving into managerial positions.

After gaining relevant experience and specialising in a particular area, some tourism officers go on to work for private consultancies or on a self-employed consultancy basis. Possibilities include freelance marketing and consultancy work or setting up, developing and managing a tourist attraction.

Regeneration and economic development projects sometimes mean an increase in opportunities in other related local authority departments, such as communications, depending on local needs.