A Monday Moan Special!

Without further analysis, I copy the notes from the meeting that Wales Outdoors arranged with the then head of Visit Wales, Jonathan Jones, back in April 2012. Wales Outdoors took along Gary Evans, now the technical advisor for Visit Wales for adventure and walking activities and Punch Maughan the then driving force behind Brecon Beacons Tourism.

I will say that Gary Evans seems to have done well from mingling with those in ‘high places’.

It’s telling that my memory of a ten year discussion with Visit Wales was incorrect. Based on these minutes I have been at it for eighteen years! It’s also telling that none of these issues were addressed and as outlined in last Mondays post re Clyne Farm the nepotism within government remains key to the management of public funds. I could raise exactly the same questions now, as I had done eighteen years ago, plus a good few more. How utterly shameful is that…

Meeting with Jonathan Jones, Andy Lamb, Gary Evans & Punch Maughan 9th April – Minutes taken by Punch Maughan.  

Matters discussed were 

1. Both GE & AL have asked for apologies from Guest Link re lost data and lack of attention to their communications – Jo Jones offered his own apologies for the dissatisfaction here & hopes that working relationships will improve and that the focus being given to the OA businesses on a Park by Park basis will help. 

2. The frustration that despite concerns raised by AL / GE over a 10 year period some operators consistently gain profile from VW in editorial and marketing on the web and in print – this had been raised at AL’s recent meeting with Mike McGivern & Jon Munro. JJ offered apologies for the seeming lack of attention & asked what solutions could be found to ensure staff do not fall back on known businesses when looking for copy.

  • For the future AL, GE & PM hope that the marketing team will approach WATO for copy who will then contact their areas for all operators to submit what they can and VW to choose from this. On the website the links will then lead to appropriate searches for all operators that relate to the activity

3. Visit Wales websites should be moderated so that it is not possible for activity operators to enter multiple copies of their product. This had happened in the past with some operators abusing the system by renaming their products e.g. by addressing different markets: ABC Climbing, ABC Stag Party Climbs, ABC Climbing in the Brecons, etc.

  • Jon Munro has committed to publishing a policy with regard to this & this is therefore expected imminently. It will require Guestlink to be monitoring the system and also for the sector to be doing some of their own policing to ensure this does not happen in the future.

4. The problem of search – activity providers need to be found where they do their activity rather than necessarily by where their business address is – this would make much more sense to the customer – ie to be able to find out who offers caving in the Central Beacons if that is where they are staying.

With this concept there would be risk a number of activity providers’ tags remaining hidden as the customer drilled down on the map. Solutions could be the map presentation could be abandoned and rely upon the list only. The alternative could be to reorganise the display of activities such that the map displayed a number of popular locations, to which activity providers could link their products. In the case of the Mount Snowdon example, clicking on its flag would reveal a number of climbing operators that could then be navigated to. However AL / GE felt rather than specific locations there needed to be geographical zones (see below)

Mike McGivern has two reservations. He was not convinced there were yet enough product operators to display this potential problem – if its not happening, why fix it? The activity location solution (option 2) would involve significant work. It would involve database and software changes, and reverses the way Visit Wales work with the Google Maps’ API. M McG committed to speak to the software people and find out what can be done. There is certainly an issue with handling activity locations – these may be run at multiple sites, none of which may be co-located with the operator’s address. The current solution is based upon the accommodation search mechanism.

  • Discussion at this meeting felt that it surely was possible to have Wales divided geographically & that operators could ‘register’ to be found in these areas that and then come up for all relevant searches within that geographical area. 

5. Broader discussions focused on the fact that the OA industry was hugely valuable as within tourism it offers all year opportunities, it covers all age groups, there are opportunities in all geographical areas – inland and coastal, in a broader sense it offers opportunities to the community with jobs (more liaison with Skills Active) and ticks the health agenda – the sector should be doing more to affirm this and lobby all appropriate Ministers for support. Some work needs to go into proving the ‘value’ of the industry – some work that will support this has been started in the BBNP with analysis on impacts / visitor numbers etc underway – this will be followed through in this context. 

6.  A point to follow up on from AL’s meeting with M McG & JM was that the category classification should be extended to include Gorge Walking, differentiating this activity from other walks. Also, separate the Caving and Coasteering filters in the search form: these activities have little in common. 

  • Action from the meeting: VisitWales would canvass the opinion of WATO. These changes ought to be reviewed in the context of current set of activity filters. There may be a case for adding or subtracting other entries. If we are going to change these filters we should revisit them all.

7. Jon Munro has promised to send a ‘map’ of all IT destinations / sites that OA operators have the opportunity of being featured on and also a list of all personnel at Visit Wales who deal with marketing.

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Walk leader @ Wales Outdoors, life model @ Cardiff Life Models and poet @ Self Published I opened the first mountain bike hire business in the Brecon Beacons National Park in 1995. Since then my business, Wales Outdoors, has grown and morphed and is now the most active and most popular guided walks and adventure travel provider in Wales. Andy has been a volunteer co-ordinator, guided walks programme organiser and part time central area warden for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, chair of Brecon Beacons Tourism, a Duke of Edinburghs area co-ordinator, a Princes Trust social inclusion manager, the catalyst for the Brecon Beacons National Park Environment Charter and a key motivator for the inception of the outdoor activity peer group, SWOAPG. Join Me! for a walk or two :)