Tourism Industry Guest Speakers inspire students on virtual field study to Pembrokeshire, Wales
In the week of 29th March 2021, local and international students from Cardiff Metropolitan University, Varna University, Bulgaria and City Unity College, Greece, studying for a MSc in Tourism and Hospitality Management, joined a 4-day virtual field study visit to Pembrokeshire in Wales. The Destination Pembrokeshire Partnership (DPP) made up of Pembrokeshire Tourism, Pembrokeshire County Council, PLANED & The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority have worked closely together to launch Pembrokeshire’s new Destination Management Organization ‘Visit Pembrokeshire’ in November 2020. This new Destination Management Organization is the first of its type in Wales bringing together the public, private and third sector to help drive growth and development.
The students explored issues facing the destination and key industry sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic and how the industry is planning for the future. Students experienced a comprehensive program of Guest Industry Speakers including Andrew Campbell, Chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance; Charles Huw Pendleton, Managing Director of Celtic Holiday Parks Ltd, Vice President and West Wales Director of the British Holiday Homes and Parks Association (BHHPA); Samantha Richardson, Director of the National Coastal Tourism Academy (NCTA); Simon Meyrick, Owner Manager of the Dinosaur Park nr Tenby; Matthew Evans CEO Coastal Cottages Self Catering company, CEO Activity Wales and Founder of Ironman Wales.
Pembrokeshire is a rural tourism destination with iconic visitor attractions including historic castles, museums, extensive beaches, conservation areas and a wide range of arts and crafts businesses. Small-scale accommodation offers are a key feature of the destination with self-catering, villas, lodges, mobile homes and caravan options becoming increasingly popular. A wide range of issues were discussed in the interactive sessions where the guest speakers shared a wealth of insight and industry experience and students asked critical questions about challenges and issues facing the tourism and hospitality industry. On the fourth day students completed their group presentations that evaluated and analyzed how destinations and industry were responding to the Covid-19 crisis in relation to key sustainability criteria, marketing and promotion, customer trends, transport access and destination planning.
Andrew Campbell from the WTA highlighted a range of factors critical to supporting the return of tourism in Pembrokeshire post-Covid-19 including: the need for tourism companies to increase their digital presence on the web and the skills and capabilities to match; the increased requirement for effective visitor management so that tourism pressures upon local communities could be better managed; the importance -of aligning business models to social values that can support local communities ,and – promoting tourism that offers care and understanding between tourists and hosts; time for businesses to increase skills training and allow a safe return to business.
Simon Meyrick from the Dinosaur Park brought an encouraging message to the students to increase interest in visitor attraction management, as he shared his passion and dedication to the development of the Dinosaur Park that he has managed with his wife since 1994. A popular attraction with a loyal customer base, -particularly families and school children, the park has supported many local families via student placements and part-time student jobs. The transition to online bookings during lockdown has been successful and helped the park to better plan visitor management and operations. The park has maintained its social media presence throughout the pandemic and they pride themselves on the use of bold colors of pink and yellow to support their brand. Promotion via Google and inclusion in Visit Wales and Visit Pembrokeshire marketing is critical to increasing knowledge of the attraction.
Samantha Richardson from the NCTA (National Coastal Tourism Academy) brought a research perspective to the discussion via evidence gained through broad consultation with coastal tourism businesses during the pandemic. She highlighted how coastal tourism has suffered from many negative perceptions over the past year including overcrowding, – coastal storms and flooding, and poor transport connectivity, Brexit and socio-economic pressures that have challenged coastal communities, residents and businesses. She emphasized the need for coastal tourism businesses to – become resilient, pursuing collaboration and sharing best practices to create more cohesion via business networks. Increased emphasis on off-peak season promotion to domestic and international markets to overcome shortfalls in spring and summer periods, and to support better economic sustainability throughout the year is becoming more popular.
A growing trend is the popularity of the health and wellness market including active experiences (i.e. paddle boarding and kayaking) and business events in coastal environments, the under 35 market, outdoor dining and providing access for people with disabilities. Samantha also detailed the trial of a new app in Bournemouth called Beach Check which provides visitors with information related to overcrowding on a particular day, – and – encourages them to visit less crowded areas. It is planned that this app – will be rolled out across the UK to support more effective visitor management in places that are prone to overcrowding, congestion and pollution.
Huw Pendleton from the BHHPA and Celtic Holiday Parks shared an enthusiastic passion for working in the self-catering hospitality sector, highlighting new opportunities and trends which have evolved during Covid-19. Staff are actively encouraged to share new ideas and feedback on new projects. The increased interest in holiday experiences that reflect a home from home atmosphere with added luxury and well-being leisure opportunities, such as hot tubs, locally sourced artisan food, and yoga and fitness studios, has brought exciting new developments within the self-catering Villa/Lodge concept. Working on a par with top rated hotel service expectations, during lockdown Celtic Holiday Parks has spent much time -developing new innovative guest experiences that provide unusual quirks that provoke interest and create unique visitor memories. Huw also emphasized the importance of working collaboratively with other sectors, particularly visitor attractions, local agriculture and horticulture farms to support sustainable tourism principles.
Finally Matthew Evans from Coastal Cottages self-catering and Activity Wales which supports over 26 sport related events in Pembrokeshire emphasized the importance of re-setting skills expectations with an emphasis on innovation and change after Covid-19, and investing in skills for staff and community development via tourism, hospitality and sports events. Matthew shared his passion and enthusiasm for locally managed small, medium and large-scale sports events which support volunteer work, local food and equipment suppliers and use of local accommodation. Matthew explained how sporting events provide an opportunity to set standards in work and visitor experiences. Activity Wales have demonstrated how an -eco-system for sporting and adventure events has strongly supported local economic development, social cohesion, well-being and health. This has also supported strategic branding at local events and promotion through local and national media channels to enhance recognition of the Activity Wales brand.
A big thank you to all the guest speakers, the students and module team for helping to create a unique virtual field study experience which helped demonstrate that there are extensive opportunities and positive new trends in tourism.