The Valleys Regional Park
Parc Rhanbarthol y Cymoedd
COMMUNITY TOURISM PROGRAMME
Too often, the growth of tourism has meant that community assets attract visitors to an area, but the economic benefits almost all go to businesses and individuals from outside. Visitors bring very few benefits to the community – and sometimes they even have a negative effect on quality of life there!
Community Tourism is the opposite of this. It aims to include local communities in any tourist development and ensures that the local community enjoys a fair share of the benefits.
Ideally, Community Tourism grows from within the community – developed by the people who live there. But no matter how a community tourist enterprise begins, it must involve interested local people who can genuinely be a part of, and actively contribute to these developments in their communities.
Community Tourism includes all interested and concerned local citizens, consulting with them and empowering them to work for the benefit of their communities. By doing this, it aims to protect and enhance communities and safeguard their environment – bringing economic, social and cultural benefits to their members.
Valleys Regional Park employed three Community Tourism Officers across the central, eastern and western areas of The Valleys.
I thoroughly enjoyed the training and the extra knowledge and information I gained through visiting other areas of the valleys on these training days helped me offer a fantastic experience to people visiting my own B & B that I have run for a few years. I loved telling people about the local area and telling them about some of the hidden places to explore.
I have now decided to attempt a whole new venture using both those things. I have launched a new holiday company to promote South Wales. The idea is that they should leave the car behind, arrive by train, or bike or plane and I will pick them up, escort them to their accommodation and ferry them around South Wales to show them the best of what is on offer. I am offering everything from 1 day excursions to full holidays. They will get a taste of Welsh food and drink, have a chance to try the language and absorb some of the culture from myths to rugby, Twmpath to Welsh cakes.
Cerydd Williams (left)
Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil
I personally rate the training as excellent and hope to continue in the future with new modules. The training has given me a ’Pride of Place’ feeling so that when I meet new people and start to explain where we are and what the Museum is about I can feel myself getting more and more animated.
The training has helped me to convey to everyone how proud I am about where I’m from and I want to be able to share that with the public. The training has also given me the confidence to contact people and ask for information and for help with putting the Information file together.
The Valleys Regional Park was the first major area where Ambassador training was delivered on regional basis. As of April 2014, a total of 543 people within Valleys Regional Park (VRP) had completed at least one of our Ambassador workshops (‘WorldHost’ or ‘Our Place’).
These individuals were from over 160 different organisations including the voluntary, private and public sectors. They included 48 different visitor attractions from within the Valleys. The map below identifies that the geographical spread has been good with trained ambassadors now covering most parts of the VRP area.
Within this overall number of trained Ambassadors, 320 people completed the WorldHost Principles of Customer Service course, and 284 completed both the World Host and Our Place courses to become recognised as fully trained by the VRP administration.
Among the people trained were school teachers, hotel owners, ex-miners, park wardens, young people as well as 9 taxi drivers in Merthyr Tydfil who can now provide visitors with a guided tour. All participants in these training courses have gained an NQF Level 2 BTEC qualification.
The CTA training programme has also used over 45 different venues across The Valleys which include a variety of community venues and visitor attractions. It is also estimated that about £18,000 in funding supported locally sourced catering and community-based venues or attractions in the Valleys.
The Community Tourism Ambassador programme was shortlisted, and ultimately Highly Commended, along with two other initiatives, in the ‘Best Responsible Tourism Destination’ category of the 2013 Responsible Tourism Awards at World Travel Market The programme was the only entry selected from the UK and one of only a few from the European continent.
In addition to the numbers of individuals trained, the Community Tourism Ambassador programme also created synergies with other elements of the VRP. For example, business partners involved in sponsorship though the WECAN project WeFundtheValleys initiative initially became connected to the VRP by sending representatives through the Ambassadors programme.
The scheme has now been developed into a social enterprise to deliver ‘Ambassador Training’ to communities and businesses across Wales. The expectation is that training services will be contracted by local chambers of trade, tourist associations, town councils and other umbrella organisations interested in setting up an Ambassador scheme to promote customer service and awareness of what is on offer for visitors in their locality. The organisation has initially employed three people who are qualified to act as trainers for others.
Whilst the scheme was initially dependent upon ERDF project funding, the new business became reliant on income generation from April 2014; although it will also seek further grant funding, for example from the Big Lottery. Following registration of the company in January 2014, training began in March 2014, and since then 80 people have been trained in WorldHost the 59 in Our Place: 54 people have gained both qualifications.
Examples of organisations and people that have participated in training are: Wales Coast Path Ambassadors, Cardiff Airport, and the Cistercian Way. The organisation is also working towards participation in the ‘Global Greeter Network’ – and aspires to be the first to involve Wales in delivering this international project.
In order to make the representatives accessible to users of the area, four local ‘embassies’ were established as hubs for local information and Ambassadors can be booked through the website established under the Community Tourism initiative.
Those individuals trained were also connected to other Ambassadors through a series of events, including three conferences. These involved the Ambassadors themselves as a means to develop event organising skills and are understood as having played an important role in helping to develop a sense of pride in volunteers about the value of their community. In addition the major CTA conference in Margam Park hosted 150 people.