Deirdre Wells OBE (pictured far right) is Chief Executive Office of UKinbound, having been appointed in March 2014. Deirdre is a passionate advocate for inbound tourism and prior to her appointment she was the Government’s Head of Tourism, where she was instrumental in the delivery of the government’s GREAT campaign – an ambitious and far-reaching marketing campaign that aims to help the world discover why Britain is such a great place to visit, study, work, invest and do business. Her career in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport spanned over 20 years, during which she held a number of high profile positions, including programme manager for the Olympic Legacy Board and relationship manager for Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008.
“…It is true to say that I would simply not have had the opportunities to do so many exciting roles without the support of the Civil Service in promoting gender equality. As a working mother of two, I have been lucky to have been able to work flexibly since my first son was born, combining motherhood with a number of demanding roles…”
Why I love tourism
I have been extremely fortunate in my career to have held a wide variety of interesting roles spanning the full breadth of the culture, media and sport spheres. As a language graduate, who spent a number of summers working abroad and InterRailing, I’ve always had a love of travel. Indeed, as an immigrant to the UK, you could say that I’m the tourist who loved the product so much she stayed!
What I love about tourism, is that it brings together all the things that I’m interested in and have worked on, under one umbrella: the extraordinary cultural heritage of the UK, great events (both sporting and cultural) and even shopping – with retail being one of the biggest draws for tourists to the UK.
About UKinbound and the value of tourism to the UK economy
UKinbound is the trade association for businesses involved in inbound tourism. With over 350 members from tour operators, to hotels, attractions, and destination marketing companies, our aim is to champion the role which this hugely successful industry plays in the growth of UKplc.
Inbound tourism contributed £22 billion to the economy in 2014 and is predicted to grow by 6% year on year over the next decade. Our role is to ensure that Government recognises the importance of this industry and does all it can – through improving visa services, increasing connectivity and investing in overseas promotion – to support our members in growing their inbound business.
Passionately committed to understanding members’ businesses
Members are the lifeblood of any trade association. Taking the time to understand my members’ businesses and the challenges they face is something which I am passionately committed to. Whether it’s through our wide range of events, or by meeting members individually, our priority is to develop a strong, personal relationship with our members and to offer them support and advice on how they can build their business.
I am blessed with a team of enthusiastic and talented individuals, who are passionate about tourism and committed to providing a first class service to our members.
Previous roles in the Civil Service – seeing how Government works at close quarters
I was lucky to be involved in a number of exciting and high profile roles throughout my Civil Service career. Working closely with No10 and Buckingham Palace on high profile events such as the Millennium Dome and the Olympics, and in more sombre times, in organising the national memorial services for the victims of 9/11, the Asian Tsunami and London 7/7, as well as a great team of colleagues was extremely rewarding.
Seeing how Government works at close quarters for someone like me who is a bit of a politics geek was simply fascinating – not quite “The Thick of It” or “Yes, Minister”, but sometimes it came close!
How the Civil Service is embracing gender equality
It is true to say that I would simply not have had the opportunities to do so many exciting roles without the support of the Civil Service in promoting gender equality. As a working mother of two, I have been lucky to have been able to work flexibly since my first son was born, combining motherhood with a number of demanding roles. Technology has helped enormously, but so too did the attitude of both colleagues and line managers alike, who were always prepared to support my work-life balance.
My personal experience is a reflection of a wider policy within the Civil Service to address a historic gender imbalance. A more supportive attitude to flexible working, coupled with a number of targeted intervention programmes to develop a more diverse leadership (a number of which I attended) has really made a huge difference to harnessing talent within the Civil Service.
Proudest career achievements so far…
It is difficult to pick out one particular thing, but my role in organising the memorial services for the victims of 9/11, the Asian Tsunami and London 7/7 was a huge honour and a privilege.
Becoming CEO of UKinbound and having the opportunity to run my own organisation has been a hugely exciting challenge which I am relishing right now.
How women in leadership roles in tourism champion other women in the sector and create positive change for them
I am a strong believer in the power of a good mentor. It is really important for women to encourage other women in their careers. It is sadly the case that women are far less confident in the workplace than men, and less likely to put themselves forward for promotion.
Women in leadership positions can do so much to encourage younger women by sharing their experience, providing shadowing opportunities, and most importantly, acting as role models, particularly on issues such as work-life balance.
Huge demand for travel to the UK – creating the optimum environment for our businesses to flourish
Inbound tourism is really booming in the UK right now and it’s our job at UKinbound to make sure that our members can capitalise on the huge demand for travel to the UK. We want to do more to encourage visitors to explore more of the UK – not just London – so we have an exciting programme of events, country-wide, to promote the wealth of the UK tourism product.
We will also be looking to do more overseas missions, taking UK businesses to meet potential buyers in new and emerging markets. All of this will be coupled with our strong engagement with Government on creating the optimum environment for our businesses to flourish, particularly on issues such as airport expansion, visas and employment.