Lucy Harper, BSc (Hons) Tourism Management graduate 

Current Employer: VisitBritain/VisitEngland

Current Job Title: Senior Communications Executive

Current Location: London

“I can honestly say that taking a placement year was one of the best decisions I’ve made and it has transformed my career… If you’re unsure about placement years, I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

Whilst at university, I took a work placement at Teignbridge District Council where I had a year’s experience working within a local government’s tourism team. The placement really sparked my interest working in government to develop tourism to a particular destination.

When I graduated, it was extremely difficult to find any opportunities in that field on a permanent basis until I was offered a maternity cover contract as West Dorset District Council’s Tourism Web and Promotions Officer. This meant that I was able to get another year’s experience in the field, leading on the projects I had previously assisted on. I then moved on to work for One Telford, as their Tourism Assistant for a few months until VisitEngland offered me a permanent position within their Business Development team. The job involved providing advice to small and medium sized businesses on anything from how to make their business accessible to digital marketing advice.

Staff were encouraged to move around the organisation to gain experience in other areas and projects, so I leapt at the chance when a job at VisitBritain came up in their Overseas Operations team. The role saw me work closely with the senior management team at VisitBritain in London and their 24 offices overseas. The job gave me many opportunities to present to the CEO and Directors, coordinate logistics for senior management meetings, and also build a new analytics tool which transformed how the organisation handles analytics.

I was then offered my current role as Senior Communications Executive which is by far the most varied job I’ve held so far as it presents daily opportunities and challenges. The role involves delivering internal and external communications to the tourism industry on the organisation’s work; it encompasses writing copy for our stakeholder newsletter, organising staff conferences, delivering external events, launching new websites, and monitoring overseas sentiment of travel to Britain during a time of crisis.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

My career has very much been on an upward transition since I graduated. I am very lucky that I’ve had so much experience within the sector and it’s all closely linked to the experience I gained whilst I was on placement year.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Moving to London certainly had its difficulties. I came from local government around the time of the 2010 election and moved into a team that was fast moving and the work was varied. There was also a time pressure, so it was a challenge to manage the work/life balance.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I recently planned a senior management staff conference for 120 staff which involved arranging the logistics, coordinating the agenda, and delivering the business and social programme across three days. With only a month’s notice, I picked this project up and fitted it in with my day to day work – which did mean long days and lots of arrangements. The conference came at a transitional period for the organisation, so the most rewarding part was being given a round of applause from the CEO.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Permanent jobs can be hard to find when you graduate and when you’re looking for your first position. I highly recommend temporary work experience, voluntary work, or any opportunity that allows you to get experience or transferable skills in that line of work. It means you’re able to refer to actual experience in future interviews, which is what employers are looking for.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

It really inspired me to target a specific type of job which I never would have considered without the University introducing me to the line of work through the placement year programme.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

I stay in touch with those I lived and studied with. I also guest-lecture for stage two students on the Tourism Management degree, within my field of Destination Management.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

I’d certainly recommend Plymouth University to all students. The location is amazing and it is in one of the most beautiful and adventurous parts of the UK, there are excellent facilities in which to complete your degree, and there’s a strong social scene in Plymouth where you can switch off from university work and learn new hobbies.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

In the second year, a few of us were considering not taking the option of a placement year and finish our studies in the following year. I can honestly say that taking a placement year was one of the best decisions I’ve made and it has transformed my career. It was another year of studying but it meant that I graduated with my close friends and gave me a direction in which I wanted to take my career. I never would have found this career path without the university. If you’re unsure about placement years, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

International tourism