If you're looking for a dynamic role that involves customer interaction and use of your multi-tasking skills, this could be the job for you

Tourist information centre (TIC) managers oversee services that provide information and advice on what to see and do in a particular city, town, area or country.

Work involves 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.

To be successful, you must have the ability to forward plan and predict what the public wants.

This can be a dynamic and rewarding area of work but it may also be very demanding and involve long hours for relatively low pay.

Responsibilities

The type of work depends on the size and location of the TIC and its position within the local authority structure. However, tasks can include:

  • publicising the centre's services and implementing marketing strategies to raise the profile of the centre;
  • gathering information and working with local businesses and visitor attractions;
  • event planning and organisation;
  • producing guides and other marketing literature;
  • researching and visiting attractions and accommodation;
  • keeping up to date with changes in tourist activities and events;
  • ensuring that the centre is well presented, efficiently organised, easy to use and accessible;
  • communicating information to members of the public and dealing with enquiries in person and by post, email and phone;
  • operating accommodation and other booking services and selling tickets for travel and local events;
  • controlling and monitoring the centre's budget to make sure targets are met in the most cost-effective way;
  • preparing reports for senior management and attending meetings with a variety of people, including senior managers and tourism businesses.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for tourist information centre officers or assistants range from £12,000 to £16,000.
  • With experience and progressing to a supervisor level, you could earn £14,000 to £24,000.
  • For a managerial role, you can expect to earn in the region of £18,000 to £30,000.

Salary levels vary between local authorities and depend on the employer and where the tourist information centre sits within the general tourism structure.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

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.

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

  • TICs 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.
  • Dress code is usually smart, and the environment is customer-services orientated.
  • 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 travel to other TICs to compare practices in order to update services or systems within your own centre. Managers are expected to attend conferences or trade events, which may be held anywhere in the UK. Overnight absence from home and overseas work or travel may occasionally be required.

Qualifications

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;
  • geography;
  • information technology;
  • librarianship or information management;
  • marketing;
  • 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.

Skills

You will 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 the locality in which you are applying for work;
  • IT skills to help with website development, e-commerce and online booking;
  • business or commercial awareness.

Proficiency in foreign languages is useful. Some jobs may require knowledge of geography, history or archaeology.

Work experience

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;
  • marketing;
  • retail;
  • 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.

Employers

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;
  • water authorities;
  • private tourist attractions;
  • area tourism partnerships.

Recently, a significant number of TICs closed as a result of funding cutbacks. Some have moved into the private sector, merging with local attractions, while others have merged with council one-stop shops, making tourist information only part of what they do.

In some cases, TICs have made staff redundant and instead use volunteers, supervised by one or two full-time managers. Due to these cut backs, competition for posts is likely to be high.

Look for job vacancies at:

Recruitment agencies rarely advertise vacancies, although positions are often advertised in job centres.

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

Professional development

Training is generally done on the job. Regional tourist boards carry out induction training and run training days and courses on specific topics, such as:

  • customer care;
  • merchandising;
  • disability awareness;
  • management.

You will also be required to familiarise yourself with local attractions and facilities.

You may consider taking a relevant qualification such as the Level 3 Award in the Principles of Supervising Customer Service Performance in Hospitality, Leisure, Travel and Tourism. This can help to make sure you have the skills required to deliver effective customer service.

Funding for training is usually available via the 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:

Career prospects

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.