Tourism insights from Ayrshire & Arran Tourism’s Ros Halley

Ayrshire College works with many partners to ensure our courses are relevant to employers and students develop the skills necessary for the industry sector they will work in. Tourism is a key economic sector in Ayrshire and we invited Ros Halley, Tourism Manager at Ayrshire & Arran Tourism to share her views on the benefits of working in the industry.

Image by Guy Hinks. Ayrshire Tourism Event at the Marine Hotel Troon

What is the main purpose of your job as Tourism Manager?

My role as Ayrshire & Arran Tourism Manager covers the geography of three local authority areas, including the islands of Arran and Greater Cumbrae. Even more challenging is the fact that the role is also wide ranging in terms of involvement of different sectors operating locally and nationally.

Working with a range of partners can mean one day advising accommodation providers on the latest research or social media opportunities to the next day helping to identify the best walking routes or pulling together a legal framework for a new golf company.

The range of work spans all project management roles, from team management to building partnerships, preparing action plans to managing budgets and developing creative solutions to often complex issues involving many different partners. Essentially a product development role, as Tourism Manager I am responsible for product improvement, improving local service levels, enhancing the quality of our tourism experience, developing partnerships, improving business to business communications and engaging communities.

How has this role developed/changed since you started?

Since starting in this position in 2012, the role has changed quite considerably. At the beginning there was a great deal of effort required just to open minds to the possibility of organising tourism on a pan-Ayrshire level. Many of the businesses had felt let down and there was a general reluctance to accept change and participate in working groups or develop meaningful activities across different industry sectors (accommodation, visitor attractions, transport, food, etc).

Today, we are in a very different position with over half of all tourism businesses in Ayrshire registered with Ayrshire & Arran Tourism and a high level of participation at all of our events. My focus is now on ensuring that the momentum and support is translated into real and lasting improvements and that these are all ultimately targeted at bringing in additional visitors to the region.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the variety and the opportunity to meet so many different people, learn about different aspects of tourism and help others to be able to make the most of the opportunities.

What would you say to encourage people to consider a career in tourism? 

As someone who has been fortunate to have spent many years working in this industry, I would encourage anyone with an interest in people, a love of culture, a passion for the outdoors or hospitality to consider tourism as a good career path!

The skills required are varied and transferable and, whilst an understanding of the local area can add huge value to the visitor experience, much more important is a passion for the area and an ability to make the experience come alive! Working in tourism is about making connections, building relationships and creating experiences.

Do you think the sector still has an image of temporary employment, low pay and unsocial hours or has this changed?

I am aware that for some people the idea of tourism as a career is still somewhat unattractive. However, things have really moved on and there are real possibilities to experience many different aspects of tourism, to travel, to meet new people and continue to learn.

Depending on the sector, location or position you may have to work long hours at certain times of the year, but more often than not businesses nowadays are adopting work-life balance policies in order to attract the very best staff, so conditions are greatly improved.

Today, there are many opportunities to work in permanent, all year round positions that offer real career progression for those with skills and ambition.

How can we encourage young people to consider tourism as a profession?

The best way to encourage anyone to change their opinion of tourism in Ayrshire is to create opportunities to experience the area as a visitor, to travel, to see, to do, to stay, to eat and to share with friends and family. Only by experiencing what we have to offer can we really sell this onto others.

How has the tourism sector in Ayrshire been performing and where are the growth areas?

Since the recession, tourism businesses in Ayrshire & Arran have had to work hard to regain some of the lost business. In 2014 we have started to see the most significant patterns of growth since 2008. Although encouraging, it will be necessary for the area to truly restructure to offer a more joined up visitor experience. Our tourism experiences need to be organised and easily accessible to reach a modern, value driven and quality conscious market.  We need to be able to reach out and grab attention, and then ensure that every step along the way we offer a quality service and maximise the opportunities to sell-on and encourage repeat visits.


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