Lancashire has a “once in a generation” opportunity to keep visitor numbers growing, but only if more people can be persuaded to pursue a career in hospitality.
That was the verdict of people at a summit of influential business owners and tourism leaders held in the county to look at opportunities and challenges for the sector.
The annual Leisure and Tourism Roundtable, organised by regional accountancy and business advisory firm Moore and Smalley, heard a range of factors were contributing to growing domestic visitor numbers.
However, many tourism businesses were facing skills shortages, which may get worse when Britain exits the EU if restrictions are placed on free movement of people.
Making careers more appealing to UK workers, a focus on improving customer service, and getting regional tourism bodies working more closely together were key to keeping the sector growing, according to the panel.
Speaking at the event, Maria Moriarty Eames, from Marketing Lancashire, said: “Many people are put off a career in tourism because of the working hours. The industry needs to be better in helping manage the work-life balance to make it more attractive. We are seeing changes to working hours, for example giving workers two-days off together and reducing split shifts.”
Andrew Haworth, of Bartle Hall, added: “There seems to be a flaw in the British mentality that hospitality is somehow a lesser career, but hospitality teaches you some great life skills and the opportunities to work your way up quickly are perhaps greater than any other sector.”
The panel also discussed how working together with other providers and investing in customer service training could boost visitor numbers.
Colin Johnson, at Moore and Smalley, said: “This year, there was a clear sense that market conditions and other external factors have created a once in a generation opportunity to attract significant numbers of new visitors.
"All of the businesses around the table were investing in one way or another and that shows that the sector is optimistic about growth, regardless of the challenges.”