SB: What is the main scope of the Tourism Consultants Network?
RG: TCN was established in 1989 as a section of The Tourism Society and is now the biggest association of qualified tourism consultants in Europe, with more than 110 members (see tcn.tourismsociety.org). All our members must agree to abide by our code of professional ethics, the Declaration of Good Practice.
Since I was elected Chairman in 2012, we’ve significantly expanded the scope of activities and services we offer to our members. These include a regular programme of events, including an annual discussion-meeting held at WTM in partnership with UNWTO. In recent years, we’ve organised highly-rewarding visits to Brussels to meet the key EU institutions involved in tourism and the ETC, and to Madrid to better understand how UNWTO operates. We lobby the UK government on important issues such as procurement legislation, and regularly circulate details of consultancy opportunities to our members.
SB: What are the most dynamic or innovative destinations you have worked with?
RG: I work mostly in emerging markets (in Africa, Asia, eastern Europe, Middle East, Mediterranean etc), where the key priorities for stimulating development tend to be multiple – from policy, strategic planning and regulation, to skills training, positioning and marketing, and product investment and diversification. In this context, it has been encouraging to see destinations such as Rwanda and Uganda follow the prescriptions of the Master Plans that they commissioned (thanks to high-level government support) and begin to get results through product diversification and targeted investment in marketing. I admire the success of small remote destinations such as New Zealand, one of very few countries to have developed a lucid and cost-effective brand image, who understand how to manage tourism so that it brings economic and social benefits to the widest possible community.
SB: What is your view of the possible impact of Brexit on European tourism?
RG: I suspect the impact will be minimal, provided that sensible business-friendly agreements are reached on trade and transport. The UK is one of the main source markets for many European destinations all year round, British leisure and business visitors will not lose their appetite for European travel, so it is in everyone’s interests to ensure continuity.
SB: Who or what is your favourite entrepreneur/enterprise?
RG: Whoever pioneered yield management (someone in the US hotel industry I believe) – it has transformed the hotel and airline industries, broken the major airlines’ cartel arrangements, expanded the global volume of travel, and hugely improved the economic viability of businesses who use it intelligently. There is still plenty of work to be done to teach travel and hospitality businesses, especially in emerging markets, how to employ it to their benefit.
SB: What are the key skills and abilities to be a tourism consultant?
RG: A consultant must be a genuine expert in one or more areas of the tourism sector, with a good track record of experience. It’s a chicken-end-egg business, not easy to break into: previous experience, including in the geographical area of an assignment, is nearly always required.
It doesn’t help that the Terms of Reference for projects often make unrealistic demands in terms of expertise and the scope of work to be undertaken within a given timeframe. Procurement regulations (notably those originating in the EU) strongly disadvantage the individual consultant and SMEs, and also make it difficult for the client to identify the most appropriate consultant, for example by prohibiting pre-contract interviews.
In the international development field, there are certainly opportunities for well qualified consultants with appropriate skills and awareness of sustainability issues, in areas such as tourism legislation/regulations, policy and governance, tourism economics, statistics, online marketing, etc.
SB: Do you have any recommendations for young professionals?
RG: Gain as much experience as possible in a variety of businesses and countries until you find the environment in which you feel comfortable and fully motivated.