After 22 years of working in the Civil Service (11 years in Customs and Excise and 11 working for the CPS), Chris Veitch found himself at something of a crossroads. Having accepted the offer of an early severance package, he had the freedom and flexibility to consider new opportunities for his future – and he found himself being drawn to university study.
“I’d always wanted to study to degree level,” says Chris. “I enjoy travel a lot, and decided that it would be an interesting topic to study in detail – so I began to look for the right place to study.”
Chris’ research led him to LSBU. “It offered exactly what I was looking for,” he says. “I wanted to stay close to home in the south east, and the course was exactly what I was looking for. It had a first year that gave me a great introduction to the subject as well as supporting a return to study. It was a great experience.”
As part of his degree, Chris secured a year’s placement at the then newly formed English Tourism Council (ETC), working in the CEO’s office. He’s never looked back since.
“It was a real job where I had to write reports and support the CEO in dealing with a range of issues,” says Chris. “I learned so much about tourism in England – how it was funded, the challenges it faced, and the strategies being developed to overcome them. I was also introduced to the concept of accessible tourism. Little did I know that it was an area I would ultimately end up specialising in.”
After graduating with a First Class degree in 1997, Chris returned to ETC where he worked for three more years, developing deeper insights into the tourism industry as well as an extensive network of contacts and collaborators.
“It was a foundation that served me really well,” says Chris. “In 2003 I set up my own practice, focusing on accessible tourism. I’ve been self employed ever since, working as a consultant offering advice and support for destinations and businesses. I work closely with VisitEngland, VisitScotland and VisitWales, and was a founding member of ENAT, the European Network for Accessible Tourism. Many of the projects have been funded by the EU, so there has been plenty of opportunities to work overseas.”
Tourism Champion for disabled people
Chris has spoken at conferences all over the world, in locations including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tblisi, Georgia, Italy and Brussels. He’s a judge for VisitEngland’s ‘Access for All’ award, has helped to develop online training programmes, and is a trustee of the charity Tourism For All. In early 2017, he was also appointed by the Minister for Disabled People to be the Tourism Champion for disabled people, and he has contributed to academic books and papers on Accessible Tourism.
“It’s been an amazing experience,” he says. “I am in control of my own time and my commitments, and am able to develop my own thoughts and approach. It’s satisfying to see progress being made, and to know that I am part of that push for change. I’m one of many people supporting this agenda, and it’s great to work with a network of colleagues – many of whom have become friends – to effect change for the benefit of everyone.”
With such a successful career behind him, Chris has never forgotten where his career in tourism started – at LSBU. “Without my degree, I would not have the knowledge or understanding of the issues that I tackle on a daily basis,” he says. “My work placement set me up perfectly to meet people who have supported me throughout the years and helped me grow my own network of contacts. It also helped me to develop useful transferable skills – analysis, research, communication, teamwork and report writing among others.”
Chris hopes that he will be able to continue contributing to changes in tourism in the UK and elsewhere for many years to come. “I hope that the vision of a more accessible and inclusive tourism industry grows ever closer,” he says. “The work will never be complete, but I know that my degree will help me to keep moving forward and keep developments.”
As well as the skills that he developed on the course, the motivation it has given him is something that Chris holds just as dearly. “I hate to use an over used word these days, but the degree helped to ignite a passion in me for accessible tourism,” he says. “That fire burns as strong as when it was lit 20 years ago and there is no sign of it being extinguished any time soon.”