Aviva PearsonAviva Pearson"...unfortunately, for a majority of destinations, environmental, human rights and other social considerations are an afterthought. They may even have it on paper, but they do not put those policies into practice."

Aviva Pearson FTS, MTMI, MCIM  is is the Business Development Manager of NVG, a leading tourism technology company and the Chairwoman of the Tourism Society. With over 20 years of experience in the Tourism industry, she has been a Destination Manager for the last eight including CEO for North Yorkshire, Executive Head of the Environment for Torbay, Director of Tourism for the English Riviera and Principal Head of Tourism and Marketing for Anglesey. Aviva has been a member of the Tourism Society for six years. With degrees in Tourism, Marketing and Hospitality, Aviva finds herself drawn to themes revolving around coastal and heritage tourism, with regeneration of resorts a special area of interest.

ECOCLUB.com:  What are the main aims and achievements of The Tourism Society and, as the new Chairwoman, what are your current priorities?

Aviva Pearson:  Established in 1977, The Tourism Society is the leading forum for professionals working in all sectors of a worldwide, dynamic and diverse travel and tourism industry. We host a programme of nationwide meetings led by key industry figures, a quarterly journal with thought-provoking articles about hot topics in tourism, and a membership whose views help shape national and regional policy. In addition, our members can access an extensive database of industry colleagues, and access better business opportunities, education and careers support. The Tourism Society is dedicated to raising professional standards in this always changing, and growing, global industry.

We have looked at the returned questionnaires from the most recent survey of our members and have already identified a few areas of concentration to make the Tourism Society work better for everyone. These areas encompass:

  • more CPD Programme Activity, to enhance the provision of services and opportunities for individual members to grow in their professional life. We want all of the members of the Tourism Society to have the best opportunities to grow within their professional lives and have the tools at their disposal to make this happen.
  • a robust events programme to underpin developments within the travel and tourism.
  • community, provoke thought processes and enrich networking opportunities.
  • strengthening links with the Tourism Education sector.
  • contributing to the evolution of tourism strategies and policies and represent our members' views on important and relevant issues.
ECOCLUB.com: The Tourism Society also have an academic branch in the form of the Tourism Management Institute, focusing on destination management training and qualifications. Have you seen an increased interest in such studies during the recent/current recession, and are such qualifications fully appreciated and understood by a critical mass of employers?

Aviva Pearson: TMI is very much the professional organisation for destination managers, aimed at practitioners with a keen interest in ensuring dialogue between practising professionals and academics - as witness the collaboration on the qualifications, the development of the HE recognition scheme to encourage inclusion of destination management elements in both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, and the recent agreement by our National Council that TMI Regional Representatives should work more closely with their regional HE institutions and seek to be involved on any HE industry liaison panels/groups.

In terms of demand - the recent survey of professional development priorities showed that over 90% of respondents possess an undergraduate degree. Whilst 40% of respondents already possess a postgraduate qualification - not necessarily in tourism or destination management - a further 40% "indicated an interest in pursuing postgraduate qualifications in destination management, with a strong preference for blended learning, i.e. online delivery with short blocks of face-to-face tuition. In addition, there is unprecedented demand for CPD courses on a wide variety of subjects.

The TMI/TS diploma, Postgraduate Qualification in Destination Management, features in the Strategy for England Action Plan for Best Practice in Destination Management, which indicates there is now the opportunity to move on from the previous support for these qualifications to embedding them with employers and practitioners.

So yes, there is an increased interest from all parties for CPD and obtaining further qualifications in travel and tourism – and I am excited about this fact.

ECOCLUB.com:  Has the peculiar combination of the meteoric rise of online social networks and a persistent economic crisis made membership of traditional professional associations such as the Tourism Society a more or less appealing proposition, in your view?

Aviva Pearson: When economic instability unfurls its' fingers, people feel the need to band together and look for like-minded groups who can help look at problems, and solutions. We are all looking for solutions, and many heads are better than one. We have our own blogs and pages within social networks, such as Linked in, Twitter and Facebook, but nothing beats knowing you can go to a Tourism Society event and meeting with like-minded people – and then tweeting about it later! In addition, there are member benefits to being part of the Tourism Society, and those benefits can save our members hundreds if not thousands of pounds. We are adding more exciting benefits to our extensive list as I write this.

ECOCLUB.com: In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, what should be done to improve the image as well as the content of British Tourism also in the light of the recent riots? Can appropriate forms of inner city tourism help?

Aviva Pearson: I think the images of Britain beamed across the globe in the wake of the recent riots, although unfortunate, will not create a permanent picture on the minds of our potential visitors. Our visitors understand that as with most places in the world, events such as the riots are circumstances which are contained to areas within the UK.

MacIntyre Hudson analysed the impact the images will have on the tourism industry. They analysed the latest data, spoke to their clients and examined the impact of other riots to better understand the potential impact. All the data and commentary we studied suggested there was little impact. Clients reported occasional concern, but not cancellations, a sentiment backed by the European Tour Operator Association, (ETOA) which reported a cancellation rate of just 0.17%. The ETOA said a 'sick dog' or a 'flooded bathroom' could be as much to blame for the cancellations as the riots and there is evidence that a number of the cancellations had already rebooked. Experts suggested a number of factors for such a low rate. Two of the most intriguing were: no famous landmarks were pictured suggesting to inbound tourists that the riots occurred in anonymous locations and the perceived low-key police response was, unlike domestically, viewed positively abroad as no people were damaged, "just" buildings.

Visit Britain is in the middle of a worldwide brand campaign which is very proving very successful. In terms of inner city tourism, there are many initiatives which could be employed for the benefit of the community, travel and tourism industry, the visitors and the overall environment. There are a number of place shaping exercises which I personally would roll out, but this would be an article in itself.

ECOCLUB.com: With your great experience in destination management, do you feel that environmental, human rights and other social considerations are already at the heart of DMO decision-making around the world or are they still an afterthought?

Aviva Pearson: I have to say that, unfortunately, for a majority of destinations, environmental, human rights and other social considerations are an afterthought. They may even have it on paper, but they do not put those policies into practice. There are many reasons for why inactivity may take place, and there are times when it is not just down to the DMO's to make changes happen.

ECOCLUB.com: How easy is it for non-partisan Tourism professional bodies such as yours, with Members at all levels (from junior employees to directors of large companies) but also with corporate members, to have a uniform political stance and be politically active, for example on sensitive issues such as Tourism & Green Taxes, Employee Rights and industrial action (strikes) in the travel & transport sector?

Aviva Pearson: As the Society is a collection of individuals in membership we organise surveys of the members to see what they think about particular issues, and we make the findings of our surveys into event topics, and topics of newsletters and articles which are printed in our journal. We very often have in our journals articles written about tourism and travel issues from opposing viewpoints. In the world of tourism and travel there are many issues, and therefore many thoughts on these issues. We report on them all.

ECOCLUB.com: Do you lobby the government, MPs and so on?

Aviva Pearson: We act as an information portal to the various government departments, so no, we do not 'lobby' - we inform.

ECOCLUB.com: Are you personally in favour of green (or carbon) taxes for tourism, for example on airports, airlines and large tour operators?

Aviva Pearson: I would be more in favour of a payback scheme where instead of money going into coffers where we cannot see how it is being spent, operators who are impacting the environment should be planting trees, helping areas invest in clean forms of energy and the like. I like tangible evidence.

ECOCLUB.com: You are also currently a manager for a tourism software and online media developer/supplier. Are you optimistic that specialist independent IT suppliers and consultants can survive the internet Juggernauts and their ever-expanding services?

Aviva Pearson: There is still room for everyone out there as long as their proposition and services are unique enough, and they know how to communicate with their audiences – whether B2B, B2C or both.

ECOCLUB.com: Do travel trade events still carry the same value as before for tourism practitioners, are they gradually being replaced by online meetings and online promotion?

There is very much a place for trade events as people still need to conduct meetings and talk business face to face. Emailing back and forth, and online meetings have their place, but there is something about meeting in person which technology will never replace. Tourism is a very human industry and at the end of the day, people want to do business with people, people they like and respect. This is a feeling you can only truly get in a face to face meeting.

ECOCLUB.com In a time of crisis, what advice, if any, would you give to school-leavers interested in pursuing a tourism career: to try to get an entry-level job for on the job training, to first travel extensively, to get practical vocational training, or to go to a university and study deeper subjects such as sustainable or responsible tourism?

Aviva Pearson: This is a question that can only be answered from a personal perspective because there is no right or wrong way to go about this so this is my answer: Practical experience is always the best thing to gain hold of, and if a school leaver can get experience in a number of organisations it can help them decide which area of travel and tourism they would like to be in. Schools and universities need to get more involved in securing placements for keen students. I would even recommend that even students at University should get part-time or weekend jobs in the industry as it looks great on CVs and resumes. If a student can secure an internship in an organisation, they will have the advantage in gaining employment and promotion in the long run. Any student in travel and tourism should be taking subjects in and studying about sustainable and responsible tourism.

ECOCLUB.com What is the future of the tourism profession - more specialisation and self-employment or more online automation and unemployment?

Aviva Pearson: I think companies will always take advantage of new technologies to streamline their processes, but I do not think that online automation will automatically mean unemployment. Many times, online activity stimulates employment. People need to grow and develop with the times and if they are creative and adventurous enough they will find an exciting future in the world of travel and tourism!

ECOCLUB.com: Thank you very much!