Gaining relevant work experience is a crucial first step towards becoming a tourism officer. You'll also need excellent interpersonal skills and a lively interest in the sector

Tourism officers 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.

At more senior levels, your job will involve strategic planning, particularly in local authorities.

Job titles vary and you may also be known as a destinations manager or destinations management officer.

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, such as commissioning and/or producing tourism strategies and economic impact studies for implementation, or 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.
  • Salaries at tourism officer levels are between around £21,000 and £28,000.
  • Management-level jobs are around £30,000 to £40,000. Jobs available at the most senior levels can be in excess of this amount.

Salaries vary depending on your experience, the type of employer you work for, the area of tourism and your location.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work a standard 37-hour week, but may need to work some evenings 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.
  • Jobs are available in most areas throughout the UK. Due to 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 may be physically demanding.
  • 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:

  • business/management
  • leisure management
  • marketing
  • media studies
  • modern languages
  • tourism management
  • urban/rural regeneration.

A range of undergraduate (and postgraduate) qualifications are available in tourism, tourism management and heritage management. Research courses carefully and contact individual institutions to identify your particular areas of interest.

The Tourism Management Institute (TMI), the professional body for tourism destination managers, has a list of TMI Recognised Courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Personal qualities, skills and relevant experience, particularly of working within a customer-focused or tourism role, can be more important than your degree subject.

Entry without a degree or HND is possible if you have relevant experience in working with tourism businesses at a local, regional or national level.

Although you don't need a postgraduate qualification, a tourism or marketing qualification may increase your chances of employment if your first degree is not directly relevant, particularly if combined with relevant experience.

Search postgraduate courses in tourism, hospitality and event management.

Skills

You'll need to show:

  • commercial awareness and an entrepreneurial approach to work
  • 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
  • willingness to travel.

Ideally, you'll also hold a driving licence.

Work experience

Getting relevant work experience through a work placement, internship, holiday work, volunteering or casual work is vital. The number of jobs available each year is limited and competition for roles is strong.

Work as a tourism assistant in a tourist information centre, for example, can be useful, or work in a marketing, information or economic development role.

Working or helping out at any of the following is also helpful:

  • commercial tourist attractions
  • events
  • local authority leisure departments
  • museums.

Roles in areas such as sales, marketing or retailing can help develop your customer service and commercial skills.

Employers

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

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

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

If you work for a local authority, you 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.

General and specialist training courses, seminars and conferences are available through key professional bodies such as TMI and The Tourism Society.

Professional membership can also provide networking and other professional development opportunities.

Postgraduate tourism management qualifications are also available to develop a particular career focus.

Career prospects

It can take some time to get into a tourism officer role, so try to gain as much relevant on-the-job experience as you can. Once in post, you'll need to build up a track record of successful projects. As local authorities often employ only one tourism officer, opportunities to progress can be fairly limited without relocation.

With experience, it may be possible to move into a managerial position. Managerial roles usually involve work at a strategic level, with responsibility for budgets, staff and operations.

Once you've gained experience in a management role, there may be openings to move into senior management with a broader remit, for example delivering growth and enterprise in a particular region. Roles at this level are scarce and you'll need a wide range of experience to move into these types of posts.

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.

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