A new Sector Skills Plan has been officially signed for the Visitor Economy (Tourism) sector in Norfolk and Suffolk, outlining ambitious plans to future-proof the sector’s skills provision and increase the commercial benefit from one of the best established and fastest growing sectors in the region.
The Visitor Economy (Tourism) Sector Skills Plan has been developed by the industry sector in Norfolk and Suffolk, working alongside the New Anglia Skills Board and supported by SkillsReach. The project was overseen by Visit East of England, with significant input from businesses affiliated to Visit Suffolk and Visit Norfolk. The plan is for the Tourism sector only, with a separate plan to meet the specific needs of the region’s Cultural sector also developed.
Tourism employs more than 78,000 people in Norfolk and Suffolk. Since 2010 it has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms. The plan aims to meet the region’s projected demand for up to 11,000 new workers in the sector by 2024. At 12%, this rate of growth is double that projected for the wider economy.
With a current GVA of £2billion, the sector’s value is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 3.8% through to 2025 – significantly faster than the 3% predicted for the overall UK economy.
The plan was developed with reference to a detailed Evidence Base, which outlined a number of skills barriers to growth in the sector:
- Employer concerns about filling immediate frontline vacancies
- Perception of tourism as a short-term job rather than a career, underestimating opportunities available locally and globally
- Challenges presented by rural and seasonal context
- Retention of staff, with higher turnover than other sectors
- Skills shortage and lack of educational pathways in areas such as catering
- In the light of this research, the Visitor Economy (Tourism) Sector Skills Plan sets out three priorities for action:
- Developing the business and employment offer
- Overcoming skills obstacles to growth
- Promoting local and global career opportunities
The detailed plan sets out a range of actions to underneath these priorities, including more engagement with Destination Management Organizations, Further Education, Universities and government; identifying national and local funding opportunities; supporting SMEs to improve retention and career development and raising awareness of existing skills pathways, including forthcoming ‘T’ Levels.
Paul Winter, Chairman of New Anglia LEP’s Skills Board, said: “The Visitor Economy is hugely valuable to Norfolk and Suffolk – in terms of the jobs and wealth it creates, but also in how it shapes our identity, helping make our two counties a fantastic place to live, work and invest. So it’s vital we do all we can to help this sector flourish, now and in the future.”
“New Anglia is the only LEP area in the country to have developed Skills Plans specifically for its individual sectors. This approach means we can put business right at the heart of the process, listening to industry trends and acting accordingly.”
Steve Thorpe, chair of the visitor economy skills group, said: “There are many challenges to overcome, not least attracting young talent into the industry and making sure the rights skills paths are in place for them. We need the private and public sectors and education providers to work with us and play their part developing the way forward.”
Pete Waters, Executive Director of Visit East of England, said: “Skills training and development are important to helping grow and sustain the year-round visitor economy and to ensure we have the workforce to match the industry’s ambitions.”
“There are great careers to be had in the tourism and hospitality sectors and the Skills Plan and its positive actions can begin to help change a perception that the industry is seasonal, low-paid and low-skilled.”