First published Tuesday, June 10, 2014
On June 17th, the Partnership for Growth Tourism Strategy will celebrate its first birthday. The Minister will be making an announcement around the progress to date, and we believe, supplying further information on the new Regional Engagement teams that will be replacing the existing ‘behind the scenes’ structures currently provided by the Regional Tourism Partnerships throughout Wales from 1st October 2014.
A conversation with a member business today resulted in a discussion around the elements of the strategy that focus on encouraging the overseas visitor. At present, the strategy is focussing predominantly on the Irish, American and German markets outside of the mainland UK. There has been some discussion previously as to why these markets were chosen over others, and what activity is taking place there, however leaving that to one side, it is accepted that the budget available to the Visit Wales marketing team is not huge and therefore it has to be spent where it is felt most return will be generated.
However, during the consultation stages prior to the strategy launch, there wasn’t a significant amount of engagement with the trade on which markets should be targeted. Now again, with such a broad offering contained here in Wales, it is of course highly likely that there would have been a very broad response to such a question, and at some point, someone will have had to make a decision on where to spend the cash.
There are a couple of questions that came out during today’s conversation. One was around the way in which the ‘average’ tourism business is going to reach out to these potential customers i.e. predominantly online whether through website or social media, and secondly, around language.
An increasing number of businesses these days have websites – a digital shop window – for their offering. Those that are engaged and ‘switched on’ digitally will be updating content regularly, doing what they can to boost the search engine rankings and so on. Those who are even more ‘with it’ will be offering online booking facilities whether that’s for accommodation or a ticket to the theme park. These businesses will be well placed to tap in to the overseas market, as they are ‘open’ 24/7 and accessible.
At least to a point. English is of course spoken in many countries and territories and often quite well. However, there are still a significant number of people who do not speak English. Thanks to the likes of Google Translate, it is possible to get the general idea on the content of a website without necessarily being proficient in a given language, and that can at least help when looking to make a booking. The problem arises though when you need to speak to someone to get more information or clarify a particular point.
Here in Pembrokeshire, whilst we are in Wales, there are many folk who don’t speak Welsh, who can’t read or write in Welsh. Throw in another language, be it French, German or Spanish, or even Mandarin, and the numbers able to communicate effectively drop further. We do know that we have visitors coming to Pembrokeshire from across the world – a quick chat with a number of members last year revealed home countries from Canada to Australia, New Zealand to China, Holland to Spain. It is great that we are making a positive mark on the global stage.
It is to be commended that there is activity taking place to broaden that reach and encourage more overseas travellers. There is however more yet to be done. Not only do we need to support business in providing a bilingual option with our own native language, but we probably need to consider what other language support is needed. It’s not too big an ask to develop a simple and basic ‘key phrases’ guide and the kind of questions that may arise when dealing with the overseas visitor, and it will make a huge impact on the customer service offering, the welcome and the general feel good factor the visitor experiences. It’s not just about encouraging a broader take up of languages in schools, it’s about encouraging a more global outlook at all levels and ages. What do you think?