First posted Thursday, March 24, 2016
Earlier this week I attended an event showcasing some of the work that has been going on in Pembrokeshire to bring even more of the heritage and culture of the county to life. There has been an extensive programme of community engagement events to identify some of the ‘hidden’ tales and history of a number of areas within the county, and as the projects progress these will be captured and shared using a range of technologies from the ‘old fashioned’ leaflets and guidebooks to the immersive experience that can be provided through iBeacons and the Culture Beacon app. More details on the project and areas involved can be found here.
Further presentations also talked about Tourism Ambassadors, and Pembrokeshire now has 20 people trained as such. The idea is that these people have a broad knowledge of the area, and are able to inform and advise visitors on how to get the best from their days out, whilst also providing more in depth detail about particular areas, all delivered in a helpful and customer focussed manner. Anyone who enjoys interacting with people and wishes to share their enthusiasm for the area can be a Tourism Ambassador, and by undertaking a short training course can also gain accreditation for this.
During the presentation given by two recently trained Tourism Ambassadors one particular phrase was mentioned a number of times: “through the eyes of the visitor”. All too often, we forget to look at our home county through the eyes of the visitor. We take the scenery, heritage, culture and more for granted as we drive through it everyday on our way to work, the supermarket, the restaurant where we’re meeting friends for dinner. For those working in the tourism industry, it is perhaps even more important to take a step back regularly and look around at the premises, attraction or activity provision as though we were the visitor.
One of the Ambassadors giving the presentation related how she’d returned to her business (a B&B) and noted a number of things that needed improvement – a pot hole or two in the driveway, worn and tired fabric on the seat covers in the dining room – and had then made sure these were addressed. Other comments considered the welcome that is given to a visitor – are they greeted with a smile, what information are they offered without having to ask for it? When dealing with a high volume of people coming to an attraction or activity provision, it can sometimes feel that time is of the essence, keep the queue moving and so on, and whilst to an extent this is important, it is also crucial to ensure that the paying visitor feels they are getting value for money and being given a good experience. We know that those who have a poor experience are far more likely to tell others about it than those who don’t, but if those getting a good or great experience are made to feel appreciated and valued as customers and visitors, they will become important ‘sales people’ for a business, passing on their recommendations to others in general conversation about their holiday.
In Pembrokeshire, the impact of the tourism industry reaches far beyond those who are directly involved i.e. accommodation providers, theme parks etc. Food producers, business service suppliers, petrol stations, supermarkets and many more all play a part. If each one of us took a few moments every now and then to view the county through the eyes of the visitor, we would perhaps see things a little differently. We’d be more aware perhaps of those bad habits we may have (I’m not suggesting we’re all guilty of dropping litter or failing to smile and help when asked for directions!) and maybe do a little more to add value to what is on offer here, whether that’s through supporting a local restaurant with a meal out in the quieter months, or making an effort to find out more about some of the great places to go and spend a day out with the family. If you do see something that makes you pause when considering it from a visitor’s perspective, what can you do to improve or change it? Can you do something yourself or does it need a phone call to a local organisation or business to get the ball rolling? Whatever it may be, as the Easter weekend approaches, consider yourself as a visitor to the county, enjoy what’s on offer here, share with friends and family details of the places you get a great experience and reception and be proud of Pembrokeshire!