TMI’s David Hughes Memorial Award 2021 winner, Sophie Elliott, writes a Guest Blog for TMI

TMI’s David Hughes Memorial Award 2021 winner, Sophie Elliott, talks to us about her tourism placement in Yorkshire and what the award means to her.


As I look back on my childhood, growing up in Yorkshire was – for me – possibly the best location and surroundings I could’ve wished for. Weekend escapes to the seaside and heart-warming hospitality are two things that stick with me the most. So, when I was asked to take part in a research project mid-way through my degree for one of Yorkshire’s largest DMO’s, Welcome to Yorkshire, I jumped at the opportunity. It was a chance for me to really learn more about tourism in the place that I called home.

When I was growing up, I’d hear tales of how my grandparents experienced the many highs of owning a B&B in a Yorkshire coastal town, which came with many lows too. Off-peak hospitality seasons, little funding and structural issues meant struggles throughout most of their time as business owners. Many seaside resorts that were built to serve domestic tourism began to really struggle in the 1970s when international travel became a more affordable option for British holidaymakers. Since then, many destination management organisations have worked hard to ensure that the reputation of these areas remain an attractive location for tourists.

The aim of our research project was to dive deeper into the importance and value of tourism to Yorkshire’s economy. This involved reaching out to small and medium-sized businesses, based in rural and coastal areas, to gain an understanding of visitor flows and how this subsequently affected their businesses. Once we’d interpreted the data, results concluded that the value of tourism to the Yorkshire economy had grown to £9 billion a year – a huge result for the region. To celebrate these findings, we were invited along to Welcome to Yorkshire’s ‘Y19’ annual conference, held to mark the organisations tenth anniversary. This is where we proudly announced our project to hundreds of attendees. It was a pleasure to have been invited along, and I felt even prouder that I was able to contribute to this piece of work knowing just how much these results meant to so many business owners, who I also met on the day of the conference!

Working on this project taught me that hospitality and travel aren’t just some of the world’s biggest industries; they’re also some of the most dynamic, exciting and fast-growing. Being able to complete this project through such a formative time in my life really reignited a spark within in me – I knew then that this was a sector I absolutely wanted to learn more about. One degree from Sheffield Hallam University later and I’m incredibly grateful to still be doing what I love in my current role in the Global Corporate Affairs function at IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Last year, I received TMI’s David Hughes Memorial Award for my contribution to this research. I remember seeing the email come through and being completely overwhelmed with emotion. Not just because of my sense of personal achievement but knowing that there are still some fantastic organisations out there, like TMI, who recognise every single part of our industry. From the big cities to the small towns, to the industry professionals and aspiring graduates – thank you for building such a supportive and welcoming network.


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