Tourist Information Centre Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

Tourist information centre (TIC) assistants (sometimes known as visitor services assistants) help people visiting their area by providing information, making bookings, giving directions and answering queries.

TIC assistants help visitors by advising them on what to do and see, where to stay and eat, and the best ways to travel around the area. They use their local knowledge along with printed reference sources such as timetables, leaflets and brochures, reference books and the internet. Their responsibilities usually include:

  • Ordering and displaying a wide range of brochures and leaflets from hotels, tourist attractions, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities.
  • Providing information and directions to visitors who call at the centre, as well as supplying information by telephone, letter or email.
  • Selling tickets, for example for coaches, theatre performances, places to visit and sightseeing tours.
  • Selling items such as maps, books, postcards and souvenirs.
  • Operating a bureau de change in those centres that offer the facility of changing foreign currency into British money.

An important part of TIC assistants' work is booking accommodation for visitors. This involves finding out the sort of hotel or guest house and the budget visitors have in mind. They can then make suggestions, check that a room is free, and take a deposit. They then give visitors directions to the accommodation. As well as booking accommodation locally, they can make bookings in other parts of the country using the 'Book a Bed Ahead' scheme.

Other tasks may include:

  • Keeping the centre tidy.
  • Keeping up to date with the accommodation, places to visit, activities and events in the area.
  • Preparing mail shots and posting out information.
  • Processing payments.

Assistants usually work with other TIC staff as part of a team. Much of their work involves face-to-face and telephone contact with visitors. They use computers, mainly for researching information and for answering queries by email.

Tourist information centre opening hours vary. Some centres are open all year round, including weekends and bank holidays. Others have shorter opening hours and may only open during the summer. Full-time tourist information centre assistants usually work around 37 hours a week. Many assistants work part time. Assistants usually work shifts and may be on a rota for weekends and bank holidays. Casual, job share and seasonal work are possible.

Most assistants work indoors. Some TICs have their own buildings, while others are located in premises such as libraries, council offices and museums. TIC assistants spend most of their time in the general public area and may be on their feet for some of the working day.

New assistants may earn around £11,000 to £12,000 a year (or the pro-rata equivalent for part-time staff). Experienced assistants may earn around £13,000 to £17,000 a year.

Supervisors may earn around £13,000 to £19,000 a year.

Rates of pay tend to be higher in and around London.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Most TIC assistants are employed by local authorities. Others work for Regional Tourist Boards and some private organisations that run tourist information centres.

Tourist information centres are based in towns and cities, on some major road routes, at ports and airports, and at major visitor attractions. There are around 500 TICs in England and many more throughout the rest of the UK. The number has decreased recently due to cost cutting during the economic recession. A full list of the centres in England can be found on www.enjoyengland.com.

The size of tourist information centres varies considerably. Large centres might employ up to 25 staff, but small centres may have only one or two. Many jobs are seasonal, mainly during the summer. It is common to start on a casual and/or part-time basis, and progress to a permanent post when there is a vacancy.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions Centres, Jobcentre Plus offices and local authorities' website's and on sites such as www.jobsgopublic.com and www.lgjobs.com.

Education and Training

There are no set entry qualifications, but employers may prefer applicants with GCSE's (A*-C), including English and maths. A friendly, approachable and helpful manner is essential. Previous experience of working with the public and handling cash is useful.

The ability to speak a foreign language is an advantage. It may be a requirement for working in centres where assistants deal with many overseas tourists, such as those in large cities, in airports and ports and at major tourism destinations. Knowledge of British Sign Language is also helpful.

It can be helpful to have qualifications in travel and tourism but this is not essential. Useful qualifications include:

  • AS or A level travel and tourism.
  • BTEC First, National and Higher National qualifications in travel and tourism.
  • City & Guilds travel and tourism Diplomas.
  • NVQ's in customer service and NVQ's in travel and tourism services.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New TIC assistants are mostly trained on the job by managers or experienced assistants. Training may include:

  • Customer service.
  • Knowledge of the products sold at the TIC.
  • Telephone techniques.
  • Handling cash and credit cards.
  • Reference sources.
  • How to research information.
  • Familiarisation with local attractions and facilities.

Assistants may also attend Regional Tourist Board courses such as 'Welcome Host', a one-day customer service and communication skills course. During quiet seasons assistants may visit tourist sites. They may work towards NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in travel and tourism services.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A tourist information centre assistant should:

  • Have a pleasant, friendly manner.
  • Have good listening and questioning skills.
  • Be polite and patient.
  • Have clear speech and a good telephone manner.
  • Be able to work calmly and efficiently under pressure.
  • Be able to deal with the needs of different customers.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Be accurate.
  • Have a good knowledge of the local area, its attractions and facilities.
  • Be keen to update their knowledge and skills regularly.
  • Have computer skills.
  • Speak a foreign language in some TICs, especially if they work at a port, airport, or major tourism area.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion may be possible to supervisor or manager of a TIC. There can be opportunities to progress from TIC assistant work to posts within a local authority tourism department or a Regional or National Tourist Board.

Assistants may be able to use their experience to transfer to another area of the travel and tourism industry, such as travel agency. They may use their skills to transfer into other customer service work, for example retail or hospitality.

Get Further Information

Institute of Travel and Tourism, PO Box 217,
Ware, Hertfordshire SG12 8WY
Tel: 0844 499 5653
Website: www.itt.co.uk

People 1st, 2nd Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
Website: www.people1st.co.uk

Springboard UK,
3 Denmark Street, London WC2H 8LP
Tel: 0845 293 2515.
Website: www.springboarduk.net

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