As a tourism officer you will develop and promote tourism in order to attract visitors and generate income for a particular region or site

Tourism officers, also known as destination managers, work for a range of employers, including public and private destination management organisations, public agencies or partnerships and local authorities.

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 of the role your job may involve strategic planning, particularly in local authorities.

Responsibilities

As a tourism officer, you'll need to:

  • produce and commission tourist information, including art work, and write press releases and copy for tourism guides and newsletters
  • set up and attend exhibitions and holiday shows
  • organise special and seasonal events and festivals
  • devise and plan tours, and arrange itineraries
  • liaise with local operators, the media, designers and printers
  • manage staff, budgets and staff training needs
  • order products and services
  • provide funding and business advice and send e-newsletters to local businesses
  • develop e-tourism platforms, including websites, and construct business databases
  • write and present reports for committees
  • plan and write funding applications
  • work on product development
  • give talks to local parties, community groups and schools, and handle media enquiries
  • undertake market research with members of the public and visitors to particular attractions
  • carry out strategic planning and development, e.g. commissioning and/or producing tourism strategies and economic impact studies for implementation; lobbying, devising and implementing marketing campaigns.

Salary

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

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.
  • Absence from home at night and overseas work or travel may be required.
  • 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.
  • Invitations to new exhibitions and entertainment venues can be an attraction of working in this industry.

Qualifications

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

  • business/management
  • European studies
  • journalism
  • marketing
  • media studies
  • modern languages
  • tourism management
  • 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.

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 or 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
  • stamina - for coping with pressure and long hours
  • local knowledge and a lively interest in the sector
  • willingness to travel. Ideally you'll also hold a driving licence.

Work experience

You'll need to gain as much pre-entry experience as possible, to increase your chances of success in finding a suitable position. This can be achieved, for example, as a tourism assistant, or in any marketing, information or economic development role, or in museum work.

Working or helping out at any of the following would also be useful:

  • events
  • tourist information centre or attraction
  • local authority leisure department.

Holiday work, volunteering and casual work are also valuable.

Employers

You'll need to be proactive in your job seeking as competition can be fierce for tourism officer posts.

Employers include 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 enterprise 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. Tourism officers, therefore, usually work closely with residents and businesses in a local community in order to support the local economy.

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:

Professional development

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

  • the TMI
  • The Tourism Society

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

Career prospects

It can take some time to get into a tourism officer role, due to the casual nature of work experience, so try to gain as much relevant on-the-job experience as you can. It is possible to specialise in resorts or cities, if you wish.

Once you have obtained a tourism officer post, further progression is possible by moving into managerial positions. As local authorities often employ only one tourism officer, opportunities to progress are fairly limited without relocation.

After gaining enough 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.

You may find opportunities arise as a result of regeneration and economic development projects.