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In this issue: Next course Pure gold

Quality Wales Issue 8, 2015

Coastal cool Moving story Have faith

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Featured in this issue of Quality Wales, [31] Tenby Golf Club, [05] Folly Farm, [27] TrawsCymru, [29] access for all, [11] Will Holland at Coast, [25] 3 Pen Cei, [19] Brecon Mountain Gold, [21] St Davids Cathedral, [07] Zip World and [33] Bodnant Welsh Food Centre.

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Contents Welcome to Quality Wales. The joy of putting together QW is that we get to meet some really inspiring people. The word ‘passion’ is a little bit overused these days, but it’s exactly what the exceptional individuals we get to talk to bring to their businesses – along with dedication, flair and excellence. And the great thing is that for this edition you can meet them too because we now have videos from our interviews for you to watch at gov.wales/tourism. Welcome message from the Deputy Minister [p03] / World class: Summit success [p04] [p07]

/ Zoo story: Folly Farm's signage [p05] / Adrenalin: Wales' big adventure

/ Coastal cool: Beachside living [p11] / Have you packed for Wales?:

Icons, market and message [p15]

/ That's sweet: Chocolate from Wales [p19] /

Have faith: Visiting sacred sites [p21] / Pure gold: Winner's words of wisdom [p25] / Moving story: Transport for tourism [p27] / Access: Open to all? [p29] / Hole new world: A golf club re-invented [p31] / Next course: The 'Bake-off Effect' [p33]

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Quality Wales Magazine is published by Visit Wales,

We’ve tried really hard to make sure that everything’s

Content researched and written by Julian Rollins

the Tourism and Marketing Division of the Welsh

accurate but can’t accept liability for any errors,

(www.julianrollins.co.uk) and Rebecca Lees. Printed by

Government © 2015.

inaccuracies or omissions. We’ve checked all the websites

Harlequin. Photography supplied by Visit Wales Image

at the time of going to press. However, as they’re not

Centre and other external sources. © Crown copyright

Visit Wales, QED Centre, Main Avenue, Treforest Industrial

ours, we can’t guarantee that they won’t change. All rights

2015. This publication is also available in Braille, large

Estate, Treforest, Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taf, CF37 5YR.

reserved – please don’t copy stuff without asking us first.

format print, and/or audio from Visit Wales. This magazine

Tel: 0300 060 3300

Opinions expressed in Quality Wales Magazine are not

is printed on recycled paper.

Email: visitwales.communications@wales.gsi.gov.uk

necessarily those of Visit Wales. Print ISBN 978 1 4734 3003 7 Digital ISBN 978 1 4734 3001 3

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OPINION

Foreword Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates AM Ken Skates AM, was appointed as the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism in September 2014. 2014 was an excellent time for me to take over this portfolio. It proved to be an excellent year for Welsh tourism, even compared to 2013 which was a successful year in itself. Although the weather was kind, the same applies to the rest of the UK but Wales is managing to outperform the rest of GB in terms of attracting staying visitors and day visitors. I’m hoping that this positive trend will continue, especially as Wales has been centre stage this autumn as the hosts of the NATO summit. During his visit to Wales, Barack Obama gave us the biggest endorsement, praising the extraordinary beauty, wonderful people and great hospitality of our country and saying he would encourage people from the United States to visit here. I hope that many people take his advice. The Welsh Government values the importance of tourism, the sector has been designated as one of our nine key sectors to realise future growth for the Welsh economy. I strongly believe that tourism plays such an important part of the economy as it touches all parts of Wales and the geographical spread of employment generated by the tourism sector is one of its key strengths. Tourism supports 14.9% of jobs in Wales and of course, the supply chain

links bring benefits to many small, indigenous businesses in Wales. I’m delighted that this new portfolio connects tourism and heritage. Tourism plays a crucial role in making the most of our heritage’s economic potential. We need to keep our heritage tourism fresh and relevant, making sure we have the facilities and products in place to improve visitors experience. Our heritage gives us a link with our past, gives us a feeling of belonging which plays a part in creating a contented and confident society. In return, our confidence with who we are and telling our story will make Wales an engaging and interesting place to visit. Another element which makes Wales an appealing destination and is an integral part of the visitor experience is food. As we see in this issue of Quality Wales, there are so many fantastic food producers and choice of local food in Wales – and we’ve merely scratched the surface. The Welsh Government has been working on a Food Tourism Action Plan to improve Wales’ reputation for high quality food destination and encourage more people to use local food. There is somewhat of a food resurgence taking place in Wales at the moment. We now have the highest number of Michelin stars in more than ten years; celebrity chefs are choosing Wales as

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a location for their restaurants and London brand Wahaca have chosen Cardiff as the place to expand out of London. I look forward to working with the Tourism Advisory Board to realise our target of 10% growth for the industry by 2020 and hope to visit many tourism businesses throughout Wales over 2015. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you – the face of the industry – for all your commitment and hard work in making Wales such a wonderful place to visit. Visitors may come here for the first time for our landscapes, culture, activities and events, but I’m sure that it’s the people and the warm Welsh welcome you offer is the reason they return time and again.

Ken Skates AM Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism

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TOURISM

World class Summit success “You can see the extraordinary beauty, the wonderful people and great hospitality, so I'd encourage everybody in the States to come and visit Wales.” President Barack Obama

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Barack Obama (President of the United States), Red Arrows display, Cardiff Bay, [03] Display of local Welsh shellfish and seafood and [04] Carwyn Jones (First Minister of Wales), Barack Obama (President of the United States) and David Cameron (UK Prime Minister) Celtic Manor Resort. [01] [02]

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As endorsements go, it’s hard to beat – and it’s just one of the good things that came out of NATO Wales Summit. The summit at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, last September involved President Obama along with leaders and heads of government from the NATO member countries. At a reception hosted by the Prince of Wales, the President urged his countrymen and women to visit Wales and also praised the country’s “extraordinary beauty, wonderful people and great hospitality”. The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates says the summit, which was a first for Wales, was an incredible opportunity to showcase to the world our people and culture, our world-class facilities

– and our ability to host one of the world’s biggest events. He said: “NATO showed that we are capable of catering to world leaders. We now have an opportunity to build on the heightened profile NATO gave us and capitalise on our profile as a great place to meet and host conferences and events. Everyone can be assured of a warm welcome in Wales – world leader or not. I hope that many companies will follow in Obama’s footsteps.” Visit Wales promotes Wales as a destination to the business tourism sector and the leisure travel trade, including tour operators, travel agents, coach operators, professional conference organisers and destination and event management companies.

Find out more…

If you are interested in getting involved, here’s how to get started: Sign up for Visit Wales industry e-news at www.gov.wales/tourism Sign up to receive regular updates from the travel trade team on specific travel trade and business tourism, opportunities and the latest information about exhibitions and events at www.gov.wales/tourism Follow us on Twitter @visitwalesbiz

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TOURISM

Zoo story Sign language

The top priority for Pembrokeshire’s Folly Farm is that its visitors go home tired and happy. But if they take away a few words of Welsh too, that’s a bonus.

From the sign in the foyer that says ‘Croeso i Fferm Folly’ to the fairground, zoo and adventure playground, the Welsh language is woven into the visitor experience day at the flagship tourist attraction. Perhaps not every youngster who has a swing on the ropes in the playground will come away being able to say ‘roeddwn i wedi siglo ar y rhaffau yn y maes chwarae antur’, but a Welsh Learners Trail means that there’s a chance a word or two will sink in. Which is a success for Folly Farm’s Welsh language policy. Back in 2011 the attraction launched a Welsh Language Trail and a Welsh Learners Trail and, since then, the management team has pledged to ensure that all new and replacement signage is bilingual. Plus, staff are being encouraged to speak Welsh to visitors. Marketing manager Zoe Wright says: “The Welsh Language Trail is a series of signs around the park that ensures a Welsh overview of each of the key areas. The Welsh Learners Trail is a series of signs giving nonWelsh speakers and holidaymakers a sentence they can learn in Welsh about their day at Folly Farm.” In future all new signage at the zoo enclosures will be fully bilingual. “In 2013,

Penguin Coast was our first fully bilingual enclosure and this year we applied the same to the Pride of Pembrokeshire lion enclosure,” Zoe says. “We have another two animal enclosures planned and they will both be bilingual.” Changing signage has had to be a longterm project. “We have 80 acres and a lot of signage, so this is a huge financial investment. We’re privately funded and therefore under no legal requirement to do it, but we have been pro-active to work out what we can do,” says Zoe. “We feel it’s important for a sense of place. We are not unique in the UK, but we are unique in Wales and we feel it’s important to embrace that. We bring a lot of holidaymakers into the area and we want them to feel they have come to a place that’s different.” The team at Folly Farm, which is near Kilgetty, recognises that the Welsh language is a subject that engenders strong opinions. “For some visitors there will never be enough Welsh, but the majority are really pleased to see the Welsh language at Folly Farm,” says Zoe. “Every year we hold a day with S4C children’s programme ‘Cyw’. This year was our third year and it’s a hugely positive day, with many more Welsh speakers at the park on that day.” In addition to the financial implications,

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a bilingual policy does throw up challenges – not least due to Folly Farm’s location. “We are in south Pembrokeshire, which is known as ‘little England beyond Wales’,” says Zoe. “It can be difficult to attract Welsh-speaking staff; at the height of the season we employ about 160 staff, and maybe a dozen of them speak Welsh. But they wear the ‘Siarad Cymraeg’ pin badges and we also encourage non-Welsh speaking staff to at least say ‘bore da’ and ‘diolch’.” Due to Folly Farm’s position as one of Wales’ leading family attractions, the team believes it has a responsibility to promote Welsh. “It’s about supporting the Welsh tourism industry,” says Zoe. “They need flagship attractions like Folly Farm to come on board and we recognise we have a responsibility to help out. Everyone’s a winner. We would like to do more and do it a lot quicker. Finances dictate, but we will get there!” The park is highlighted by the Welsh Language Commission as an example of good practice and is used as a case study at conferences and talks. “As a result we believe we’ve had some influence,” says Zoe. “We take that responsibility seriously and like to think there’s a ripple effect throughout tourism in Wales.”LJ’s t

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[All images] Welsh signage is now a feature at Folly Farm in Pembrokeshire.

Find out more‌

For further information visit folly-farm.co.uk

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ACTIVITY

Adrenalin The Big Adventure

The fear factor is all part of adventure. And Wales is discovering that it gets adrenalin flowing better than most.

The media interest has been impressive. You’ve probably seen a rugby star, or maybe a weatherman, hurtling along one of Zip World’s zipwires, but you may have missed the extent of the coverage’s reach. Here’s an example. A reporter recently visited Bounce Below, Snowdonia’s underground experience in an old slate cavern, and vividly described feelings lurching “between vertigo and claustrophobia”. Her verdict, that it had been an “incredible, unique experience”, was shared with an international audience via the US news organisation CNN. This has to be music to the ears of Sean Taylor, the brains behind both Bounce Below and Zip World. From the outset he has been working to give Wales what he calls iconic originals. “The idea was that if we built something that was so different from everything else people from literally all over the world would come and visit,” he says.

After a military career, Sean returned to north Wales and went into business. His first venture, Tree Top Adventure, at Betws-yCoed, opened in 2007. Since then he has created Zip World. In 2013, he opened Zip World Velocity at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda. It’s the longest zipwire in the northern hemisphere. Riders reach speeds of up to 100mph during the mile-long, white-knuckle ride. More recently he’s added Zip World Titan at the Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near Blaenau Ffestiniog, as well as Bounce Below, in the underground workings. “Yes, it’s an adrenalin experience, however we don’t think this is extreme sport because that narrows your market,” Sean says. “People perceive risk, but it’s extremely safe. Without safety, in our business we don’t have a business. “Adventure tourism is the fastest growth area in tourism in the world. We feel we are the world market leaders in what we are doing.”

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And it has to be said, Wales has lots going on. Later in 2015 north Wales will get another big attraction when an artificial watersports lagoon, Surf Snowdonia, opens in the Conwy Valley. It will feature a powerful, consistent wave that’s up to six feet high. It will suit surfers of all levels of skill – from grommets (that’s beginners) to professionals. And, of course, the outdoor sector offers all sorts of other opportunities to find their adrenalin hit. Everything from climbing and mountain biking to kayaking and coasteering. Throughout Wales outdoor activity tourism supports more than 8,000 jobs in Wales and makes a contribution of close to £500m to our economy. It’s a Visit Wales priority, with the focus on improving the quality of the activities on offer and developing new attractions. The sector is – excuse the pun – riding the crest of a wave. “There’s a great vibe about activity provision in Wales at the moment. There’s a lot going on and it feels

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Adrenalin The Big Adventure “I came through Blaenau Ffestiniog recently and the whole place was buzzing. It was fantastic to see.”

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very positive,” says Paul Donovan, who chairs the Wales Activity Tourism Organisation (WATO). Paul is excited by the growth, both in the more traditional activities and the new and novel. The latter are, he says, creating a link between visitor attractions and adventure activities. He calls them activity attractions, a category that takes in Sean Taylor’s ventures at Bethesda and Blaenau Ffestiniog, and Surf Snowdonia. Together they are generating huge interest in Wales, he says. “I came through Blaenau Ffestiniog recently and the whole place was buzzing. It was fantastic to see.” The challenge now is, he argues, to encourage visitors who come to ride wires and waves to extend their stay and try other activities. “It’s about making sure that we signpost those individuals to make sure that they know what else is on offer.” That’s an aspiration that’s shared by Jon Haylock, who is Head of Adventure at TYF, which is based at St Davids, Pembrokeshire. He’s been working with TYF since 2000 and says there is a marked increase in public interest over the last few years. At the same time there has been a change in customer profile. These days more families come to Wales looking for adventures that they can share, he says. “Part of that is about my generation – people of 35-plus. They were quite outdoorsy themselves as children and are now parents

themselves and they want their children to experience what they enjoyed as children.” Participation is growing, he says, especially in the area of DIY adventure. “People are doing it themselves. For example, take kayaking; the number of people heading our way in the summer with a kayak or a surf board on the roof of their car is incredible.” It creates an opportunity for adventure businesses, he says. “I think the future for the outdoor industry is to help facilitate what people do as much as possible, but to ensure that they are doing what they do in a safe way – and a way that respects the environment.” For the future, Jon believes dialogue between providers is vital. TYF works closely with business competitors who are members of the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Charter (POC) group, which brings together all those with an interest in outdoor activities. It plays a role in preventing what Jon calls ‘honey-potting’ – what happens when a location becomes too popular. He gives the example of the National Trust property Abereiddy ‘Blue Lagoon’, an old quarry on the coast that’s a popular coasteering venue. “I’ve counted 200 people there,” he says. “It’s great to see people out and about enjoying themselves, but it loses its appeal as somewhere to visit.” POC’s solution has been to ration commercial operators’ access to the lagoon. Now they have to book a slot to visit the location via an online system. It is, Jon says,

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Adrenalin The Big Adventure a good example of how the industry can spot issues and deal with them before they become problems. That sort of joined-up thinking is what WATO is all about, says Paul Donovan. It will play an important role this year in the development of a new approach to the accreditation of the outdoor activity sector in Wales. It will mean that providers will continue to have the option of a free Visit Wales listing, but will need to confirm accreditation details to qualify. The intention is that visitors will be able to select an activity provider confident in the knowledge that it can guarantee safe and effective practice. Sean Taylor is also a fan of the joined-up approach. His businesses promote Adventure Map North Wales, which signposts visitors to a wide range of adventure experiences like rafting, rib rides, watersports and climbing. “It’s essential that we work together,” he says. “If we bring people to the area the secondary spend will follow. Everyone will benefit.” It amounts to a huge opportunity, he says. “I feel in the next couple of years Wales will become the adventure playground of Europe; a world-class playground for a worldclass audience.”

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Bounce Below, [02] Sean Taylor, Zip World and [10] Blue Lagoon on Pembrokeshire's scenic north coast.

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Find out more…

Bounce Below www.bouncebelow.net Surf Snowdonia www.surfsnowdonia.co.uk TYF Adventure www.tyf.com Zip World www.zipworld.co.uk [ 09 ]

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FOOD & DRINK

Coastal cool A new take on the beach cafe

Travel writers aren’t easy to impress. But after just one meal one (from the Telegraph) hurried back to London to write an article headed: How Wales got cool. So, QW sent it's own Julian Rollins along to meet the chef who is making things happen.

It’s autumn, but feels like summer. South-facing Coppet Hall Beach, a hop and a skip from Saundersfoot, soaks up the sun on days when the rest of Wales shivers. And the sun has brought people out. Walkers are heading off for a day on the coast path, a man is working his way across the beach with a metal detector and terrace tables at Coast are all taken. The new-build restaurant and café only opened in spring 2014, but it has made its mark. It was named ‘best eating-out experience’ in the Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards and is already in the Good Food Guide. A striking building, it presents a wall of glass to the sea in a broad sweep that echoes the line of Saundersfoot Bay. On the terrace the atmosphere is relaxed, but things are quite different around the back of the building. Lobsters, alive and kicking, have just been delivered and are being taken up steps to the

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kitchen and another van is being unloaded. Boxes of vegetables wait to be shifted. At the kitchen door, hands on hips, head chef Will Holland (the man QW is there to meet) glances over each box as it passes by. “This is what it’s all about,” he enthuses. “Quality produce that’s as fresh as you can get. It’s what I get out of bed for.” If you follow TV cookery shows there’s a good chance you’ll recognise Will Holland. He’s been a regular on Saturday Kitchen and Great British Menu. He brings a little bit of celebrity glamour to foodie Pembrokeshire along with an impressive CV. During 15 years cooking he has worked in a series of top kitchens and earned a Michelin star – before turning 30. At Coppet Hall he is working with partner Kamila Karczewska, who is in charge of frontof-house. When the couple had their first look at what is now Coast, it was a building site, but both could immediately sense potential. The fact that they would be working with a blank canvas was, Will says, a big attraction.

“That we weren’t going to be stepping into someone else’s shoes really excited me,” he recalls. “We’ve had a free hand on the style of the food and the restaurant.” What they have come up with is something that is quite a departure from La Bécasse in Ludlow, where Will spent six years as head chef (and caught the eye of Michelin’s inspectors). It was fine dining with a French influence, while Coast is about modern, simple dishes in the sort of relaxed environment that fits in with its beach location. “The food that I am cooking at Coast is much more simple and laid back, more friendly,” he says. “That’s the way dining is going. People don’t want to feel intimidated by anything – the menu, the service, the ambience.” In the kitchen fish is being prepared and chips are having a first dip in the fryers. Will breaks off for a moment to check all is as it should be, then he’s back to his story. He grew up in Bristol, but remembers Pembrokeshire from family walking holidays.

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Coastal cool

“The food that I am cooking at

A new take on the beach cafe

Coast is much more simple and laid back, more friendly.”

Even then he was planning a life in the kitchen. “I can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else other than a chef,” he says. “But I don’t know where that comes from.” His parents are both teachers, so it can’t have been easy to break the news that he wanted to leave school and go to catering college instead. From college, and at the tender age of just 17, he moved on to a job in a Michelin-starred kitchen – at Homewood Park, near Bath. By the time the lunch orders start to come in the kitchen is firing on all cylinders. Everyone is concentrating on his or her task and chef is busy putting together an order of lobster. When the plate of lobster has gone on its way, along with another of John Dory, Will takes a breather. It has been a “whirlwind, busy summer”, he says. That hasn’t given Will and Kamila much spare time, but they have begun to explore their new home county – the move to Coast is clearly about work-life balance. The couple have a house in Saundersfoot, so their ‘commute’ to work is a walk along the beach. Their dog, Sabre, goes along too; he has a kennel at the back of the building. But when Will has had the time to get away from Coast he has been ingredienthunting. As things quieten down in the kitchen, Will goes through to the restaurant and starts to wax lyrical – about eggs, fish and meat. “As a chef, it’s the produce and ingredients that come through the kitchen

[All images] Coast marketing photography.

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Coastal cool A new take on the beach cafe

door that excites me,” he says. And what he has been able to find locally has exceeded expectations. Of course, a beach restaurant has to have fish on the menu, but Will says he has been amazed by the quality of the “ultra local” fish and shellfish he can source. After years working at landlocked restaurants and hotels, the quality of the fish that he can now work with has been a revelation, he says. Nearly all of it is caught from the waters around Pembrokeshire and landed at Saundersfoot, Swansea and Milford Haven. Sea bass and lobsters are from Saundersfoot Bay. “You can’t beat that from a freshness point of view and that’s reflected in the food we are putting on the plate. It’s very simple because I don’t want to mess about and complicate ingredients of that quality.” Warming to his theme he shares an anecdote. He was, he says, standing on the terrace one morning when he got a call from his lobster supplier, who wanted that day’s order. “He said ‘turn around’, so I did and there he was out in the bay on his boat waving at me. “It’s nice to be in a position where guests sit down in the restaurant and open the menu and ask one of my team ‘where does this

come from?’ And they can say, ‘over there’. You can’t get a better example of traceability than that.” Seafood is only part of it. He expected the fish and shellfish to be good, but says he has been “blown away” by the quality of all the other ingredients that west Wales has to offer. Preseli lamb, Bethesda pork, game from the surrounding Hean Castle are the stars of the menu, but even the more modest “supporting cast” make their contribution. Like the eggs. They come from a farm half an hour from Coppet Hall and are, he says, very special. “I never got so excited about an egg before,” he says, with a laugh. “But honestly, the colour of them for making hollandaise, scrambled egg or a crème brulee is amazing. People say ‘that scrambled egg was nice, how much cream did you put in it?’ And I tell them none, it’s just the egg – it’s that nice.” Finally, it’s time for a break before the start of evening service. Kamila, Will and the dog are silhouettes as they stroll off across the beach and into the afternoon sun. The last question – the one about the future and Michelin stars – is the one he (wisely) choose to dodge. “My job is to get Coast as close to perfect as I can,” he says. “It’s simple. Be happy, cook happy food – and make the guests who come through the door happy.”

Find out more…

For further information visit coastsaundersfoot.co.uk

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MARKETING

Have you packed for Wales? Icons, market and message ‘Promoting the brand’ is a priority for the Welsh Government’s tourism strategy. To unpick what that means for tourism businesses QW met up with Mari Stevens, Deputy Director, Marketing, at Visit Wales. Is Wales a brand? Yes and no. A country or destination is very different to a commercial product or service and it’s very difficult – possibly impossible – to distil all that heritage and richness into something as simple as a ‘brand’. Most of the strongest destination ‘brands’ in the world have grown organically over a long period of time: Ireland’s international ‘brand’ profile or reputation is very much a product of its history and its international diaspora, although its marketing organisations and anchor companies also do a great job of telling the Irish story consistently across the world. But although a ‘brand’ isn’t the whole answer, countries like New Zealand and Iceland – and Ireland – prove that coherent and creative ‘brand’ thinking and communications can make a real difference to a country’s profile and performance as a tourism destination. Like these destinations, we have a greater chance of building our profile and reputation if we are disciplined about telling the same story about Wales, one that is very much rooted in our own strengths as a country time and time again. Visit Wales and our partners have delivered some great campaigns for Wales over the years, and we want to build on that with even more focus and integrated working over the next few years. A great destination brand is also based

on developing the right products for our target markets – and that is also a long-term priority as we look to build a truly competitive identity for Wales on the world stage. Marketing isn’t the whole answer. Wales has a contemporary and high quality tourism offer, and we have been working hard to drive the performance of the industry with high-profile campaigns in the UK and Ireland as well as digital, press and travel trade work in other key markets such as the USA and Germany. Our current ‘Have you packed for Wales?’ campaign is delivering strong results for us – around £180m of additional spend was generated via our marketing programmes last year – and we won a prestigious digital marketing award for our multi-channel approach too. A major international campaign has just launched in Germany, and all of our activity is focused on celebrating the very best of Wales' product offer, and excellence in quality. That clearly depends on having great experiences and stories that are really relevant, to promote and sell to our target markets. Experiences that are distinctive, rooted, unique and stand-out. Brand building takes time, and we need to ensure that we work together to continue to develop outstanding products that underpin the Wales brand story. [ 01 ]

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We have to spotlight our strengths. Through a sustained focus on quality over a number of years, building on Wales' core attractors, Wales is growing into a strong and competitive destination. There’s a real sense of confidence in our country and the quality of our offering – and a great deal to celebrate. Although it’s an ongoing process, our recent successful Autumn campaign – with its food theme – shows that our best products really do appeal to our target market of independent explorers. Over the next few years our approach will become increasingly focussed on identifying and promoting Wales' competitive product strengths as well as the geographical destinations that we know will appeal to our markets and we hope to build on the success of DT100, the Dylan Thomas centenary celebration, with other thematic years in the future. Our campaigns will showcase places and experiences that have a real sense of place – that are rooted in the landscape, culture and heritage of our country – but that are also relevant to our markets, and that are contemporary, creative and of the best possible quality. When they were developing the Wales Millennium Centre the brief to the architects was to make it unmistakably Welsh and internationally-outstanding. I’d say everything we do in product development and marketing should seek to bridge both those elements.

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Festival Number 6, Portmeirion, [02] Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey, [03] Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Laugharne and [04]  Melin Tregwynt, Pembrokeshire. [01]

If I was awarding an Oscar for marketing it would go to New Zealand. Fifteen years ago they were seen as a supplement to Australia, but now not only do they promote themselves as a bucket list destination, their aim is to convert that interest into a visit this year. It’s partly about a strong core product and market-facing product development, a lot about clarity and focus, and very driven by good marketing and clear and consistent branding. Iceland and Sweden are also innovating and are examples of great

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Have you packed for Wales?

“So what I think we have to do is find clever

Icons, market and message

ways of positioning Wales' core strengths in a way that feels contemporary and relevant.”

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challenger brands, and Barcelona’s success in using culture and creativity to completely reimagine the city, even around a sporting event, is inspiring, although like New Zealand, they now need to protect the sustainability of the brand they have created. Wales has a strong core product and is well respected for delivering really engaging brand marketing work. There is a huge opportunity to continue to work together to make even more of what we have to offer and to build our profile in new markets. The international market is a focus. But we need to be focused. The Partnership for Growth tourism strategy underlines the need for Wales to target our international marketing effort carefully, and to work with VisitBritain to make Wales a feature of UK campaigns across the world. We now have a secondee working for Visit Wales in the VisitBritain HQ in London, making sure that the team there has a very clear idea of the Wales message and ensuring that Wales is well reflected in VisitBritain promotions. As well as our own campaign in Germany, this year we’re also launching a new international brochure or publication for Wales, because we know that the international market knows less about us than our main market here in the UK.

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We continually need to balance the need to present Wales to new markets with limited knowledge of our offer, with the fact that the UK market has positive – and negative – preexisting perceptions of the destination. So what I think we have to do is find clever ways of positioning Wales' core strengths in a way that feels contemporary and relevant. Here’s an example. If you’re going to talk about male voice choirs do it the way that Festival No. 6 (at Portmeirion) did it. They put the Brythoniaid (a choir from Blaenau Ffestiniog) on stage with the Pet Shop Boys. We have always got to position Wales in a way that will provide us with a positive and contemporary image in the UK market. But we don’t want to subvert it too much because we’ve got to appeal internationally. We have to embrace our core strengths – the landscape, the culture and heritage – but do it with confidence. And always, always look to the future. A lot of our exciting, talkedabout products, from Bounce Below and The Harbourmaster to Great Little Trains and the GreenMan, provide visitors with memorable experiences in uniquely Welsh locations and offer a strong sense of place. They take part of our heritage and keep it fresh. They’re all so rooted and all the more relevant because of it.

Quality Wales

Evaluating marketing can be tricky. This year our target for brand marketing activity is £190m of additional spend generated through marketing and we need to know how we’re performing against that target. We carefully track responses to our campaigns to see how many of those people have visited, or intend to visit, as a result of our marketing. We also continually evaluate the performance of specific elements of our work: our website has grown to over 3m unique visitors this year, and we now have over 1/2m followers on social media, which saw a huge uplift during our Autumn campaign. We monitor coverage achieved via PR and assess the impact of our travel trade work. On top of this we also evaluate brand performance and customer engagement with Wales as a destination. This mix of metrics provides us with a strong sense of how the brand, individual campaigns and specific activities are performing, but ultimately, of course, it’s all about driving a growth in visitor numbers and value – we keep a keen eye on those stats as you can imagine. Think about markets holistically. It’s very difficult now to put anyone in a box – older markets are younger than ever, and most people are looking for rounded

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Have you packed for Wales? Icons, market and message

Conwy Castle, Coasteering, Pembrokeshire, [07]  Green Man Festival, Brecon Beacons and [08] Tenby, Pembrokeshire. [05] [06]

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experiences even if what brings them to Wales is a niche activity. For example, research shows that ‘adventure tourists’ are actually looking for a combination of at least two out of three experiences when visiting a destination – physical activity, culture and/ or nature. So if you’re running a small B&B catering for young people who want to explore active Wales then clearly your first job is to make sure that your business is right for that market. In doing so it’s vital to provide customers with a general sense of place and a seamless, rounded, experience. Are you offering the right food products? What local food providers could you signpost customers to? What other adventure product, or cultural and heritage attractions are there on your doorstep? We need to ensure that our visitors have a memorable time here and spend money in our communities now, and in the future. We need to work together to give our customers such a good experience that they want to – have to – come back. Back to your business and back to explore more of Wales. And that they talk to their friends, family and huge social media networks about Wales and your business: because that’s the best marketing of all.

What is destination management? Destination management is about all the elements that come together to make – or break – a visitor’s experience. It gets everyone involved working together to make sure that all the activities and services that visitors come into contact with are as good as they can be; that includes everything from accommodation and attractions to transport, signage, footpaths, parking and public toilets.

Find out more…

business.wales.gov.uk/dmwales/

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Issue 8, 2015

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FOOD & DRINK

That’s sweet Hand-made chocolate Is it time to think outside the box when it comes to local produce – and put Welsh chocolate on the menu? It takes a moment to place chocolatier Jules James. Confident and fast-talking, he sounds all-American. But don’t mention the good old US of A, because the accent is from some way to the north, in Canada. “I reckon I get asked where I’m from every single day,” he says, ruefully. And the short answer is Wales. Or to be more precise, Crickhowell. The longer story involves 13-year-old Jules emigrating to a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. Over there, he trained as a chef after leaving school and then decided to travel the world. On his travels he worked as a scuba-diving instructor and as a chef as well as finding time to study in Vancouver to become a Master Chocolatier. The travelling finally came to an end in 2009 when Jules and partner Kathy Newman settled in Crickhowell and started out on the business that became Black Mountain Gold. “As a chef I was always doing chocolate in different shapes and forms. Guests loved it and I enjoyed experimenting and being creative,” he says. Today Black Mountain Gold is thriving, selling high-end chocolates from online, from its shop in Crickhowell and at food shows and festivals around Britain. Kathy handles marketing, two colleagues man the shop but its Jules that is in the ‘engine room’ creating Black Mountain Gold’s chocolates and truffles and coming up with new products. He also runs workshops where novices can learn all about Jules' sweet world of mouthfeel, enrobing, detailing, tempering and the like. The secret of great chocolates is freshness, quality ingredients and flavours, he says. “I think what makes Black Mountain Gold different is that I have a whole world of ‘drawers’ to go to when I am putting something new together,” he says. “All the flavours from my travels are there in my head.” blackmountaingold.org 01873 812362

Wickedly Welsh

Based at Haverfordwest, Wickedly Welsh welcomes visitors, who can learn about the chocolate-making process and learn about its history. Experiments with the likes of chocolate pizzas may be only for a dedicated few, but the concept of deli range – sliceable, giant chocolate favourites – is a winner. wickedlywelsh.co.uk 01437 557122

[All images] Jules James and the team at Black Mountain Gold.

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Baravelli’s of Conwy

With a fine line in celeb selfies (featuring, among others, Rob Brydon and Benedict Cumberbatch) Liam Burgess is the mastermind behind NomNom, which is based at Llansteffan, near Carmarthen. Liam, 20, first went into business with the help of the Prince’s Trust and is busy putting his new brand onto the Welsh chocolate map. Facebook: nomnomchocolate 01994 448761

Customers at Emma and Mark Baravelli’s Llandudno deli inspired the couple to move into the world of chocolate. After being asked about locally-made chocolate, the couple decided to give it a try. They decided to go back to basics, sourcing cocoa beans direct from growers and making their award winning chocolate from scratch. chocstix.com 01492 338121

NomNom

Chocolate Fusion, Llandysul

Sarah Bunton Luxury Chocolates

Chef Nick and businesswoman Kitty came to chocolate through their hobbies – cooking, growing and beekeeping – when they were looking to do something new with their produce. Early home-kitchen experiments proved to be a hit with relatives and led to them launching Chocolate Fusion in 2010. The business has gone from strength to strength, moving to a new base in a converted barn in the countryside near Llandysul in 2012. chocolate-fusion.com 01239 851369

Issue 8, 2015

Based at the family-run Y Caban café at Devil’s Bridge, Sarah Bunton Luxury Chocolates has been in business for just four years but is already an award winner. Young entrepreneur Sarah was raised on a Cambrian Mountains hill farm and, as far as possible, uses local ingredients to produce her handmade, luxury filled chocolates. sarahbunton.co.uk 01970 890650

Quality Wales

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TOURISM

Have faith Discovering the heart of Wales With an action plan in place to encourage more people to visit sacred sites, Wales is leading the way on faith tourism.

Tintern Abbey and [02] St Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire.

In fact, in 2011, St Davids Cathedral was the seventh most popular free attraction in Wales. As a building it has an appeal to people of all faiths, and none. Now there’s a new drive to increase visitor numbers at all of Wales’ sacred sites – not just the landmark ones like St Davids Cathedral, but also to thousands of humble churches and chapels too. And tourism as a whole in Wales could benefit. In autumn 2013, the Welsh Government published a faith tourism action plan – the first of its kind in the UK – to explore ways in which Wales’ religious heritage could be enhanced for visitors. Launching that plan, Economy Minister Edwina Hart said sacred sites need to become an ‘integral component’ of the visitor experience by 2020. It’s difficult to quantify the value of faith tourism to the economy. Visitors to churches and chapels leave donations and buy candles and books, but they also visit local shops and pubs and stay at B&Bs and campsites. There’s also a recognition that faith tourism can make a contribution to the health and wellbeing agenda. Around Wales walking trails have been created to link places

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The phrase ‘faith tourism’ might not be familiar, but as a concept it’s far from new. For centuries, pilgrims made the journey to Wales’ great religious centres like Bardsey Island, St Winefride’s Well and St Davids Cathedral – and these very special places still hold their own amongst much more modern, and secular, tourist attractions.

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of worship, whilst peace and a sense of spirituality are cited among the main reasons visitors seek them out. Since 2000, the Churches Tourism Network Wales has helped religious sites contribute to the tourism economy. Its director, John Winton, says: “It’s not necessarily, or exclusively, religious people visiting religious sites. I say sites, because they can be non-buildings, such as wells, or places that people used to worship at, but never put a building on. “From research, the words peace and tranquility come top for visitors. Other reasons are family connections, the need for spiritual engagement, the need to contemplate, pray and reflect and the history of a place. Faith tourism is one of the biggest growth areas in world tourism and there’s no doubt that Wales is at the forefront.” One example of how sacred sites can be ‘sold’ more effectively is the Sacred Doorways trail in Conwy. It shows how churches and chapels in small towns and villages can be linked and ‘clustered’, enabling visitors to walk or drive between sites and learn about saints and sinners, princes and pilgrims. Another recent project is Peaceful Places,

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Have faith Discovering the heart of Wales

“Families are looking for somewhere to go and, on a rainy day, an open church is as good a place as any.”

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which is supported by the heritage body Cadw and forms part of the North Ceredigion Churches Heritage Trail project. The project team say it offers visitors the chance to look at churches and chapels anew and to find out about the landscape, ecology and people who shaped their community. Project manager Dr Roger Haggar says: “The starting point was Llandre, where we were struggling to maintain and sustain the church building. We needed a more outward-looking approach involving the community.” Cadw had access to European funding, which helped pay for pews to be taken out and a new mezzanine floor, kitchen and disabled toilet. Dr Haggar adds: “The Cadw money allowed us to think: why just one church?” Now Llandre is linked with other sites in north Ceredigion and Peaceful Places connects 17 churches and chapels. All have had their stories ‘teased out’ by heritage communications specialist Countryscape. Interpretation panels have been installed at each site and a website created. All sorts of people visit the sites, says Dr Haggar. “During Easter, for example, primarily we see people from Wales and the Midlands. But in the main season it’s the middle England area, with foreign visitors tending to come at the end of the season. “We have a digital people recorder for each site and we have also done a marketing plan and have a mental picture of who will

come in the main: people whose children have flown the nest and people who are curious.” But, he says, sites on the trail can have a wide appeal. “Families are looking for somewhere to go and, on a rainy day, an open church is as good a place as any,” Dr Haggar says. For some congregations there is still a worry about an ‘open doors’ policy. But John Winton says the concern about visitors in churches is a fairly recent notion. “The church used to be the centre of the community and in the Middle Ages was used for trading and concerts,” he says. “It seems to me that if we are not inviting people in, it’s a misuse of the building. “A lot of people are fed up with repetitive, traditional worship but like being given the opportunity to enjoy the building. Places of worship are perfectly placed and give us a much better chance to tell the stories of genealogy and archaeology.” Dr Haggar agrees. “Struggling churches are closing,” he says. “Our project is seemingly giving a little focus and enabling a networking approach. Once a priest is convinced of the value of an outward-looking approach, clerics are beginning to gain the confidence to encourage congregations to open their doors. “They don’t run the risk of things being pinched; quite the reverse,” he argues. Insurers actually prefer it if churches and chapels are kept open during daylight hours, Dr Hagger says.

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Have faith Discovering the heart of Wales

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Peaceful Places shows what can be done, but Roger Haggar thinks it will be a long haul to make the faith tourism plan’s vision a reality. “It’s going to require people to pull together on this at all levels,” he says. “When people think about Wales, they are attracted to the castles and the mountains. If we can persuade them to walk, drive or ride some of these peaceful places, all the better. If people can be persuaded to come just five miles inland from the coast path, there is a totally different picture. Churches and chapels are potentially very attractive to visitors.” John Winton shares the vision. “We have a great opportunity to tell a story that nobody else has, such as the revival at the turn of the 20th century. The Vale of Glamorgan was a hotbed of theological teaching in the fifth and sixth centuries and, arguably, Wales has the longest unbroken connection with Christianity in western Europe. If you are going to tell the story of Wales, you cannot tell it without religion.”

The west front at Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, [04] Jacob Epstein's Majestas at Llandaff Cathedral, [05] the exterior of Llandaff Cathedral, [06] Valle Crucis Abbey, Denbighshire, [07] a Celtic cross monument on Bardsey Island, [08] the interior of St Davids Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, [09] the Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay, and [10] a jazz performance in Brecon Cathedral. [03]

Wales’ top five sacred sites are: 1. St Davids Cathedral – 262,000 2. Cardiff’s Norwegian Church – 148,500 3. Brecon Cathedral and Heritage Centre – 120,000 4. Tintern Abbey – 69,300 5. Llandaff Cathedral – 40,400 (Ranked according to number of visitors in 2011)

Find out more…

Find out more by visiting the Churches Tourism Network, Wales website www.ctnw.co.uk www.visitwales.com

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Issue 8, 2015

Quality Wales

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PROFILE

Pure gold Getting it right Planning and attention to detail are key to quality – but a sense of humour helps too, says Gold Award winner Lesley Evans.

More than seven years on from opening their 5 star guesthouse 3 Pen Cei, Lesley and John Evans have established a formidable reputation. For Lesley, a former food rep, and John, who worked in local government, their business is also their family home – Lesley was born in the house on the quay at Aberaeron and it’s where the couple brought up their own sons. And the boutique B&B offers a family welcome that visitors seem to love; of 122 TripAdvisor reviews just two fall short of ‘excellent’ (and they’re both ‘very good’). One reviewer says: “Certainly no need for a visit from ‘The Hotel Inspector’… in fact, I believe they could teach Alex Polizzi a thing or two.” So, what’s the secret? QW asked Lesley what advice she has for newcomers to the B&B business. Planning is essential. We planned for a good 18 months before we opened and, during this time, were given invaluable help by Visit Wales. The advice ranged from identifying the core market, business planning and marketing, to website development and making grant applications – and a good deal of common sense. I would say that for anyone embarking on a project like ours, it’s essential to seek

business advice, particularly if it's provided for free. That extra mile Focus on the quality of what’s on offer. In the very competitive world of tourism, it’s key to go that extra mile to ensure that the experience is not just good, but memorable. Small things make a difference. John or myself are always here to welcome guests with a cup of tea and Welsh cakes, and we interact with our guests so that they feel more than just customers. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve had such lovely people staying; we’ve never had difficult customers or any trouble. We just want people to enjoy themselves and be happy when they are here. Sense of humour Our guests cite attention to detail as one of the things that sets us apart, but we got caught out when we opened in May 2007. We had ordered solid oak tables, and assembling them was one of the few simple things that remained to be done on the day we opened. But, having put them together and set them out, we realised that the chairs were too low. When someone sat down it was like looking at a child sitting at the table! The solution – cut the legs of the tables down.

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The carpenter working for us on the conversion was swiftly recruited to cut almost two inches off each of the 20 thick table legs. But Murphy’s law dictated that in the middle of the sawing, our first guests – a film crew – arrived. Luckily they saw the funny side and the dining room was ready for breakfast the next day. Expect the unexpected You think you can plan for every eventuality, but always expect the unexpected. The most stressful challenge we had was a weekend of double bookings due to a family member not being familiar with our method of logging. They booked in a group of six people for a Friday night in August, but what we didn’t realise was that they had actually booked for three nights, so we took other bookings for the Saturday and Sunday. We expected them to vacate their rooms on the Saturday morning – but it didn't happen. There was a degree of panic as it was the busy summer period, but we managed to find alternative accommodation for the other guests and thankfully they were all very understanding. In line with Visit Wales’ criteria for 5 star accommodation we now provide confirmation of all bookings, so hopefully we won't be faced with a challenge like that again.

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Lesley and John Evans at 3 Pen Cei, Aberaeron. Pen Cei marketing images.

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Find out more…

www.pen-cei-guest-house.co.uk

Issue 8, 2015

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OPINION

Moving story Future travel options It goes without saying that getting customers to – and around – your business has an impact on the bottom line. Access is important, so QW asked experts for insights into two very different sides of the same coin.

Making getting around Wales as easy as it can be serves the tourist industry. And making that happen is all about I's says the University of Glamorgan's Professor Stuart Cole. Providing an easy-to-use and enjoyable traveller experience is the primary objective of integrated public transport. And over a decade ago I came up with an evaluation process that could help maximise the quality of that traveller experience. I called it the 4I’s because the concept has four elements: information, interchange, investment and imagination. Together they add up to integration – and a better experience for all travellers. Let’s look at each of those elements. Travellers rely on information that is comprehensive, clear and easy to find at main terminals or interchanges and en-route, via mobile phones.

Ultimately information should be in real time. Directional signage at bus or rail stations varies in quality – where it’s poor it should be improved. Also, it has to be realised that not all travellers have online sources; hard copy information is still in high demand. Ease of interchange is important too. Whatever mode of transport people are using, whether they are on foot, in a car, on a bike or using public transport, the interchange should be seamless. That means ticketing should be interchangeable and readily available through products like Go Cymru, PlusBus and national and regional tourist Rover passes. My third ‘I’ is investment. We can minimise journey times through investment in more capacity, bus priority schemes and more frequent, faster new trains and buses. Investment in stations and bus waiting facilities will also improve the passenger experience and enhance Wales as a touristfriendly destination. Lastly, we need imagination. We need to understand what the traveller expects and find new ways to make it happen. That means allowing planners to try out out new ideas and requiring them to test those ideas to perfection.

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The four ‘I’s’ are common to all users, but do tourists have different requirements? Studies into their needs have suggested the following are a must. Tourists need clear, comprehensive information about an interchange and it has to be easy to use, particularly for those travelling with heavy luggage or young children. They also want clear timetable displays, both in digital form and as a hard copy. Walking distances between transport modes should be short, and under cover, and there should be clear directional signs, both between modes and to local destinations like the town centre and local hotels. Visitors also want secure parking for cycles, cars and motorcycles, good left luggage facilities and car-hire provision. They want to feel secure too, and for infrastructure like toilets to be clean and well-maintained. How does the system measure up? I will leave that thought with you, but I would like to draw your attention to one good example of where Wales is getting it right. When TrawsCymru was launched by the Minister, Edwina Hart, the Western Mail said the new service was “one we should be proud of”. The Welsh Government-owned national luxury bus network added its latest route (T1

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Aberystwyth – Carmarthen) in August and at the time of writing there are plans to operate to all parts of Wales. It is very much a tourist (and commuter) service with on-board information showing bus stops and interchange information as well as tourist spots along the routes. The network is based on integration of bus and rail timings, which enables easy through-travel. Along with the Government’s Wales and Borders rail franchise, operated by Arriva Trains Wales, TrawsCymru will form the core of a long-distance national public transport network that links in with local bus services. The network will connect Carmarthen, Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest, Bangor, Machynlleth, Dolgellau, Caernarfon, Bala and Wrexham. It makes Aberystwyth a hub for trains, three TrawsCymru routes and local buses all coming together at its new bus/rail interchange station. Trains also link with TrawsCymru at Haverfordwest and Newtown while Brecon is an important interchange point. Very little has changed when it comes to the needs of the independent traveller since 2003 – we are still a long way from implementing the 4I’s principles, but TrawsCymru shows us what can be achieved.

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Llanelli-born Stuart Cole began work as an economic advisor to Cheshire County Council in the 1970s and his experience spans local government, the private sector and academic roles. Now Emeritus Professor of Transport at the University of South Wales, his contribution to transport policy was recognised in 2012 when he was awarded a CBE.

[All images] The TrawsCymru service has been developed with visitors in mind.

Find out more…

www.trawscymru.info/

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OPINION

Access: Open to all? Are you giving enough thought to how easy your business is for customers to access? If the honest answer to that question is ‘no’ you’re probably missing a trick, says QW second expert, travel blogger Carrie-Ann Lightley.

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I’m a wheelchair user who loves to travel, so working for Tourism for All UK (TFA) is a pleasure. TFA is an independent charity supporting leisure and tourism opportunities for all, operating an information service to older and disabled people – which is my main responsibility. We also work with the industry and government to raise the standards of welcome to all guests. As I have a disability and a fondness for travel, I have empathy with others who may have experienced difficulty in finding suitable facilities and services. For most of my life I travelled ‘mainstream’ – booking hotels through a high street travel agent, hobbling on to transfer coaches, re-arranging furniture in the room to accommodate my wheelchair. Luckily, I’m quite mobile. I have cerebral palsy affecting my lower half, but have been known to shuffle up a flight of stairs when the mood has taken me.

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Travel expert Carrie-Ann Lightley and [All other visitors enjoy exploring Wales.

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It wasn’t until I started working for TFA that I realised that travel can be made a lot easier. I soon discovered hotel rooms with low-hanging wardrobes and wet room showers, transport with ramps and even mobility equipment for hire at holiday destinations. Good information can make a world of difference. I hear from many disabled travellers who have to search dozens of different websites to find the information they need, literally spending day and night online just to book a simple break. Thankfully I can help them to find suitable, accessible accommodation and places to visit using websites like OpenBritain. Access statements are also key when it comes to researching this information. Once uploaded to a website they are, for businesses, a no-cost way of advertising to potential disabled customers. Some of the accommodation providers I speak to assume that they need to be fully wheelchair accessible to welcome disabled guests, but it’s not all about ramps and wide doors. Only around eight per cent of disabled people use a wheelchair – that’s about one in 12. Think about older and less mobile people who may benefit from hand rails; people with visual impairments who want to know if you have large print menus and welcome assistance dogs, and people with hearing impairments searching for places with induction loops and British Sign Languagetrained staff. Accessible and inclusive tourism is about making tourism possible for everyone, whether you are young, old, a mum pushing

Quality Wales

a buggy, a wheelchair user, a visually or hearing-impaired person, a carer or someone recovering from an accident or an illness. Barriers to access are often about attitude and service, which are easy to rectify. Personally, I will always recommend a venue where the staff went out of their way to accommodate me over one with good access, but bad service. Disability awareness training gives staff members the confidence to welcome all customers, without worrying about saying the wrong thing or booking someone into an unsuitable room. It’s not about offering ‘special’ service for those with access requirements, but the very best service for everyone. The market in travellers seeking greater accessibility is growing. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that it is worth about £80bn a year. So, travellers with a disability represent an important market and serving them can make a business stand out. Also, on the whole they are loyal to businesses that serve them well. For example, if I find a hotel that meets my needs perfectly, to save time and for peace of mind when I go back to that town or city I won’t go elsewhere. Also, if the hotel has a wheelchair-accessible restaurant/bar I’m likely to spend money there rather than trawling the streets to find somewhere to eat. There’s a fast-growing network of businesses, public bodies and voluntary organisations committed to giving a warm welcome to disabled guests and those travelling with them. Can you afford to miss out?

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Case study Vulcan Lodge Cottages is a family affair. Rita and Denis Lawrence run the row of self-catering holiday homes near Rhayader along with Denis' nephew Zenek, his wife Elaine and their daughter Nicola. The property is a converted 18th Century inn and one unit, Middleton Cottage, is recommended by Tourism for All as a good example of adapted accommodation. “The former Vulcan Arms came on the market about five years ago and was an opportunity we felt we couldn’t miss,” says Rita. The family owned and ran the Halt Café and shop next door. To get the new venture on the right track Rita says she sought as much advice as she could get. At one event she met Sue Napper, the founder of a charity called Disabled Holiday Info. She says: “I was really inspired and realised that Middleton Cottage was ideal for conversion as it was massive, with no steps and with a huge lounge.” On advice from Sue Napper, a newly installed bathroom was ripped out and replaced with an accessible wet room. Light switches were marked with fluorescent stickers to help guests with impaired sight and grips were attached to knives and forks to make them easier to hold.

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Rita also bought a call buzzer for people with hearing difficulties. Detailed information on facilities in all the cottages is set out on the website and the family welcomes feedback. “We ask guests to make a list of little things that would help during their stay,” says Rita. “For example, at the moment the garden has steps, so this winter we are going to create an accessible garden area with a picnic table and adapted benches. We have walking frames here and we also hire out electric scooters for a nominal fee so guests can use the cycle paths. “It’s good business sense, but it also gives us a buzz to be doing something socially useful. Some people pay lip service to disability access but the process is not difficult. We have had excellent feedback and it is a joy receiving guests who tell us how much they appreciate our facilities.”

5 top tips from Visit Wales 1. Provide information about your property and service in a large print format. Set aside the "corporate" image and use a clear font in 16pt. This includes your Access Statement. 2. Have pieces of equipment to hand (e.g. toilet raiser seats; bath seats; easy grip cutlery; spare task lighting, table lamps, etc) 3. At reception have a lap tray and writing pad to aid communicating with those who can't hear very well. 4. Rather than purchasing larger items such as hoists, wheelchairs, investigate hire options from local mobility suppliers. 5. Train staff in Equality issues; be yourself – if in doubt, ask your guests about their specific requirements.

Find out more…

www.vulcanlodgecottages.co.uk

Quality Wales

Find out more…

Carrie-Ann Lightley runs Tourism for All's information service. You can read her blog at: www.carrie-annstravelblog.blogspot.co.uk

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GOLF

Hole new world Serving today's golfer The image of the golf club as a closed, members-only world is well out-of-date. Forward-looking clubs are diversifying and welcoming something new and fresh to all sorts of guests.

You don’t have to be a golfer to get a feel for how special Tenby’s golf course is. It’s a classic links course, which means it overlooks the sea, and it has big, big views – the panorama from the ninth tee across Caldey Sound to Caldey Island, and even Lundy Island, is especially good. It’s a jewel of a place and it is no wonder that it was, apparently, a favourite with keen golfer – and Prime Minister – David Lloyd George. It also has the distinction of being, arguably, the oldest course in Wales. Manager David Hancock is careful in the way that he phrases the club’s claim to that distinction. Others think they have a claim that matches, or betters, Tenby’s, but David is quietly certain that they are wrong. The Tenby club was officially founded in 1888, whereas one at Borth is said to have been founded in 1885. But David is pretty sure that golf was being played by the sea at Tenby at least a decade earlier.

“There’s a story from the records of the town court that a sitting was adjourned so that they could go and play golf,” he says. “That was in the mid-1870s, so there was obviously golf going on here before it was formally established.” These days a growing number of golfers are following in Lloyd George’s footsteps and visiting Tenby to play the course. They do it with keenly-priced stay-and-play packages that pair up the club’s unique golfing experience with on-site three star B&B accommodation. The B&B component of the deal is relatively new. Four years ago the club converted what had been the club steward’s flat into three en-suite bedrooms. They proved popular, says David, but the club could see that it was missing out on the opportunity to welcome larger groups. “We found we were turning people away, or putting some up at the club and others at a B&B in town,” he said. “The decision was made to build a new block so that we could really appeal to the small golf society market – groups of 10 to 12, even 14 golfers.” The new block, and a driving range and teaching studio, were officially opened last April by Edwina Hart, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, and Ryder Cup star, Philip Price. The extra rooms brings the total number of

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rooms up to seven, which means that the bigger groups of visitors can now play together and stay together in comfort. So far the expansion has proved a great success. It has meant that the club has had to take a step further into the world of hospitality, for example someone now has to turn up bright and early each day to cook and serve breakfasts. But that learning process is all part of the process of re-invention that a club has to undergo if it is going to thrive in a changing world. “These days everybody is realistic and can see that you have to have other revenue streams. You have got to look to new ways of earning income because, as a general trend worldwide, membership is dropping,” David says. Would Lloyd George recognise the place if he could come back for one more round? David Hancock thinks he would, although he might be thrown by some 21st Century additions like the sofas and sun terrace. But he would probably enjoy finding a photo of himself on one of the walls and would feel at home with much else in and around the club. “I think it’s possible to be traditional and still forward-thinking,” David says. “You can keep those traditional values but also be a modern and friendly club that is a relaxed place to be too.”

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Find out more‌

For further information visit www.tenbygolf.co.uk

Issue 8, 2015

David Hancock, manager, [All other images] Tenby Golf Club, Welsh Golf Club of the Year for 2014.

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FOOD & DRINK

Next course Learning to cook For a growing number of today’s foodies learning to cook is all part of the culinary experience – and more and more are coming to great Welsh cookery schools to do it.

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There’s something of the film set about the cookery school at Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, which is at Tal-y-Cafn in the Conwy Valley. Tucked away in the roof space of one of the centre’s beautiful old buildings, it’s a combination of old and new – aged roof beams and state-of-the-art kitchen.

Issue 8, 2015

On a bright autumn morning, sunlight angles in through skylights and onto the eager faces. The morning’s students – a mixed group of keen foodies – are hanging on every word as their teacher for the day, the centre’s head chef, Dai ‘Chef’ Davies, talks them through the recipe they’re going to attempt. Running a hand over the plumage of one of a brace of pheasants he has hanging from a roof beam, Dai enthuses about just how local the dish will be. The birds have come from the woods outside, the butter is from Bodnant too. Then there’s local apples, leeks and mushrooms along with good Welsh cider and Anglesey sea salt. “We’ll be evoking that wonderful Celtic essence of flavours,” Dai tells them. Dai is a natural showman with an enthusiasm that is hard to resist, he’s an evangelist for the flavours of Wales who jumps at any opportunity to spread the word. For example, he recently joined Visit Wales at the Destination North America event in Las Vegas, representing Wales and Welsh food. Dai is one of a team of tutors who teach at Bodnant. The cookery school was planned

as an integral part of the centre, which opened for business in 2012. The centre is something new for Wales. It has a supermarket-sized farm shop that sells Bodnant estate produce like meat, honey and cheese, alongside the best of food and drink from across north Wales. There’s a café, restaurant and B&B plus, of course, the cookery school. Offering courses is a logical extension of what the centre is all about, says Eira Roche, who teaches herself as well as managing the school. “We have such fantastic ingredients here,” she says. “We use the product from the dairy, the butchery and the farm shop and it all comes together up in the cookery school.” It’s possibly no surprise that the bestseller courses at the moment involve baking. After all, more than 12m viewers watched the latest final of the BBC’s Great British Bake Off – more than sat down to watch the football World Cup final. She welcomes what amounts to a Bake Off/MasterChef effect and believes that it is helping to change British attitudes to what they eat. “We’re coming out of a dark period when people were relying on processed foods

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“Food tourism is a really big

Learning to cook

thing in Tuscany and there are echoes of the Slow Food movement that started there, here in Wales.”

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and packaged foods,” says Eira. “They’re now realising that for environmental reasons, and just for pure taste, they need to start eating seasonally and locally – which we really promote here.” Eira’s career gives her an interesting take on the Welsh food scene; she grew up in north Wales, but spent years working in Italy. She sees parallels between what’s happening now in Wales and the Italian way with food. “Food tourism is a really big thing in Tuscany and there are echoes of the Slow Food movement that started there, here in Wales,” she says. “We have so much to offer.” Angela Gray has been running Llanerch Vineyard Cookery School since 2010. It’s a peaceful place, surrounded by row upon row of vines in the rolling countryside of the Vale of Glamorgan, but just 10 miles or so from the centre of Cardiff. The school has built an impressive reputation. It has been rated as one of the UK’s Top 10 by The Independent newspaper and is used as a filming location by BBC 1’s The One Show. In the early days the majority of Angela’s students were from close to home and the school’s programme continues to offer courses that will appeal to loyal locals. Threehour ‘skill builder’ sessions are particularly popular with regulars. But as time has gone on the school has begun to attract business from an everwider catchment area too, she says. Growth has been organic and based on personal

recommendation because the school opted not to spend lots of money on advertising – it has relied on word-of-mouth to spread the word. It’s a strategy that seems to be paying off. Angela tells the story of how one woman flew in from Switzerland recently to spend a week honing her skills. She had found the school’s website via a web search and liked the fact that it was handy for Cardiff Airport. The Swiss visitor enjoyed her taste of Wales. “She loved it. And when she went home and told her friends about her week, they came too,” Angela says. That experience is evidence, Angela says, of how food is now very much part of the “package” that most people are looking for when they travel – and for many that means cooking as well as eating. She says: “It does seem to be part of the travel experience now. If people love food they are going to seek out an experience that they can engage with.” How courses are pitched is the key to ensuring that people have a good time when they do turn up, Angela says. She offers courses that cover the full range of skill levels and the school sets out to make sure that people are placed with groups that are right for them. “The majority of people are quite fearful when they first turn up and it’s our job to overcome those nerves. But within an hour of them being with you they are relaxed and are enjoying themselves.”

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Next Course Learning to cook

The farm shop at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre, [02] the centre's head chef, Dai Davies, [03] Bodnant's cookery school manager Eira Roche, [All other images] the school kitchen, accommodation and farm shop. [01]

If there is a Bake Off/MasterChef effect, food writer Lindy Wildsmith reckons it’s something of a double-edged sword. “It’s as though cookery has become a spectator sport,” she says. “There seem to be so many people now who watch cooking on television, but do it sitting eating a microwave meal.” For all of that, there are, she says, still people who are passionate about food – and cooking. And Lindy has made a thriving business of helping dedicated foodies develop their skills. Her school, The Chef’s Room at Blaenavon, was judged ‘Best Cookery School in Wales’ in the British Cookery Schools Award in both 2012 and 2013. The journey that has ended up at The Chef’s Room started when Lindy teamed up with Franco Taruschio, founder of renowned Walnut Tree at Llandewi Skirrid, near Abergavenny. They found the perfect base at

Blaenavon, where restaurant supply specialist Vin Sullivan Foods had a teaching facility. Both teach at the school, which also calls on the services of visiting tutors. The team includes Matt Tebbutt, the Saturday Kitchen guest presenter and head chef at The Foxhunter, near Usk. Lindy says all cookery schools share a challenge, overcoming the perception that cooking is something that other people do. “I ask people ‘do you cook?’ and they say: ‘Not really.’ So I say ‘do you eat? Well, then you cook’.” Many people feel vulnerable about their grasp of basic skills, she says. “There’s this embarrassment about cooking when other people are around, but once you overcome that, people relax, learn and enjoy themselves.”

Find out more…

Bodnant Welsh Food Centre bodnant-welshfood.co.uk

Llanerch Vineyard Cookery School llanerch-vineyard.co.uk

The Chef’s Room thechefsroom.co.uk

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Quality Wales 2015 - ENG  

Quality Wales guide for 2015 - English version

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