If you're confident, resourceful and enjoy customer interaction, working as a tourist information manager could be ideal for you
Working as a tourist information centre (TIC) manager, you'll oversee services that provide information and advice on what to see and do in a particular city, town, area or country.
The work will involve booking accommodation, making reservations, selling related gifts and souvenirs, running special events and generating marketing opportunities. Management duties will also need to be covered, such as the daily running of the centre, networking and staff management and recruitment.
As a tourist information centre manager, you'll need to:
- publicise the centre's services and implement marketing strategies to raise the profile of the centre
- gather information on, and work with, local businesses and visitor attractions
- plan and organise events
- produce guides and other marketing literature
- research and visit attractions and accommodation
- keep up to date with changes in tourist activities and events
- ensure the centre is well presented, organised, easy to use and accessible
- communicate information to members of the public and deal with enquiries in person and by post, email and phone
- operate accommodation and other booking services, selling tickets for travel and local events
- control and monitor the centre's budget to make sure targets are met in the most cost-effective way
- prepare reports for senior management and attend meetings with a variety of people, including senior managers and tourism businesses.
- Starting salaries for tourist information centre officers or assistants range from £14,000 to £18,000.
- With experience and progressing to a supervisor level, you could earn up to £26,000.
- If you're in a managerial role, you can expect to earn in the region of £25,000 to £35,000.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Centres are usually open seven days a week during the summer and six days during the winter, although this varies across authorities. It's typical to work a 37-hour week over a five-day period, often including weekends, though hours are often longer during the busier summer period than in winter.
Part-time or seasonal work is common. This is increasingly so at managerial level, especially in smaller centres. Self-employment and freelance work is rare as there's little scope for setting up and running a centre without considerable financial support.
What to expect
- Tourist information centres exist in most cities and many towns and in rural areas of interest to tourists and visitors. They can also be found in ports, motorway services and airports.
- As this is a public-facing role you'll be required to dress smartly, possibly even in uniform.
- The job may be quite stressful during the busy tourist season when you have to deal with a large number of enquiries.
- Most travel in the working day is local, mainly to attractions, events and businesses.
- You may need to travel to other centres to compare working practices and systems, and to attend conferences or trade events, which may be held anywhere in the UK. This could mean the occasional overnight absence from home.
You can become a TIC manager with a degree, HND or foundation degree in any subject. However, the following may increase your chances:
- archive and museum studies
- business or management studies
- information technology
- librarianship or information management
- modern languages
- politics, government or public administration
- travel, tourism or leisure studies.
Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is possible, as you could start as an assistant and work your way up with experience. You could also move across from another retail or customer-focused job.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not usually required. Personal qualities and proven business skills are likely to carry just as much weight as academic qualifications and are seen as key for the development of the sector as a whole.
You'll need to have:
- excellent communication skills for dealing with customers and contacts in local businesses and visitor attractions
- good interpersonal and management skills to lead a team of staff
- a methodical, motivated and customer-focused approach to work
- an enthusiastic, friendly and confident manner
- problem-solving ability and negotiating skills to successfully run the centre
- knowledge of the UK, especially where you're applying for work
- IT skills to help with website development, e-commerce and online booking
- business or commercial awareness
- proficiency in foreign languages – this is useful and may be a requirement for some jobs
- depending on the role, specific knowledge of geography, history or archaeology may also be needed.
Pre-entry experience is highly desirable, especially in:
- the travel and tourism sector, e.g. with a tourist information centre, local authority leisure department, hotel, travel agency or tour company
- the information sector, e.g. in a library or museum.
Some tourism-related degrees include an optional work placement year which will provide relevant experience. Involvement with local groups or associations, either while at university or afterwards, can help you acquire the skills and knowledge relevant for this role.
Most TICs recruit staff locally as a good knowledge of the area is essential. The main employers of TIC managers are local authorities, usually district, borough or city councils.
Other employers include:
- national parks
- wildlife trusts
- water authorities
- private tourist attractions
- area tourism partnerships
- local enterprise partnerships.
Funding for tourist information centres is no longer guaranteed and councils have had to make cutbacks in recent years. This has created some uncertainty about the future of tourist centres and with more people accessing information on the internet there is less footfall. Also, the number of volunteers willing to help for free somewhat jeopardises paid positions and makes them more competitive.
In some cases, where funding is limited or removed altogether, TICs have survived by merging with council one-stop shops and offering a reduced service, or by moving into the private sector and merging with local businesses or attractions.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Local Government Jobs
- Tourism Management Institute - vacancies accessible to TMI members.
- The Tourism Society
- Local authority and council websites - use the Directory of Local Councils to find contact details and web addresses.
You'll receive most of your training on the job. Regional tourist boards carry out induction training and run training days and courses on specific topics, such as:
- customer care
- disability awareness
You'll also be required to familiarise yourself with local attractions and facilities.
Taking a relevant qualification, such as the Level 3 Award in the Principles of Supervising Customer Service Performance in Hospitality, Leisure, Travel and Tourism, will help you to deliver effective customer service.
Funding for training may be available from your local authority. You're largely responsible for your own continuing professional development (CPD) and will need to identify your own training needs, e.g. in managing staff, and then look out for relevant training opportunities.
Membership of professional bodies may be useful for networking and professional development opportunities, and access to the latest industry news. Relevant organisations include:
- Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT)
- The Tourism Society.
For more information about a career in the tourism sector, see the sector skills council People 1st.
A career in a TIC usually begins with a post as a TIC assistant. You can then move up to a supervisory position and on to manager level. There are occasional opportunities to go on to manage more than one centre, although this is becoming less likely as more centres are currently being closed than opened.
Career development may involve moving into other local government posts within tourism or marketing. Another possibility is to join one of the regional or national tourist boards, where the work may involve the development of the tourism strategy for the area and marketing the region to visitors.
The experience you gain as a TIC manager can also be used in information services, for example, in libraries and information management. However, for this type of move, a postgraduate qualification may be necessary. Alternatively, you could move into the retail sector or the service or hospitality industries.