Skift Take

Most professional travel roles boil down to marketing and trying to get travelers to pick your destination, hotel, or airline over all other choices. You ace that and your skills applicable in almost any sector.

VisitBritain is in the midst of the search for a new CEO — someone that has a specific set of skills and the scars of a senior-level executive to prove it.

The job listing promises a “competitive 6-figure package” in exchange for a candidate who is willing to leave a senior leadership position to head partnerships, shmooze with public figures, act as a visionary to an at-times turbulent tourism sector, hit milestones within deadline, and be on the road 40 percent of the time.


But several individuals were bidding to take the place of VisitBritain’s current CEO Sandie Dawe as soon as she announced her pending departure after five years in the role and 23 years at the organization.

So what does it take to become the leader of a national tourism board?

According to the VisitBritain Chairman Christopher Rodrigues, the candidate needs a balanced mix of business acumen and public charisma.

“From  the board’s perspective, it’s easier for someone with commercial experience to be shadowed and partnered with a chairman,” says Rodrigues.

“If you’ve been in the public sector, the question is can you be credible in a commercial role? You don’t have many people with both sets of skills.”

Obvious places to look for new CEOs are the marketing departments of major hotel groups and airlines, but leaders at tourism organizations in other countries would also be considered.

“They don’t have to be British. They have to be good,” confirms Rodrigues.

Part of being good is understanding that the future of travel marketing is digital.

That means looking at an airline’s loyalty list and seeing the potential for a multi-partner online marketing campaign that inspires travelers and pushes them to act by including hotel and destination deals.

Advice for Aspiring Tourism Leaders

“Go out and sell stuff,” sums up the advice that Rodrigues has for aspiring travel professionals who dream about one day leading a major destination’s tourism board.

“Sell hotel rooms or airline seats because, at the end of the day, you have to understand the consumer. Get international experience. You need to be more than a one market person. I think its helpful if you have some understanding about running a public sector organization, but that’s the more easily learned skill set.”

Below is a brief on the VisitBritain CEO position:

Download (PDF, 904KB)


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Tags: execs, labor, tourism, visitbritain

Photo credit: VisitBritain CEO Sandie Dawe stands with UK officials and Samsung representatives at the start of a Samsung and VisitBritain partnership in 2010. VisitBritain

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