Green Badge ambassadors boosts Wales tourism for Pontcysyllte World Heritage site
By Ceidiog Hughes
A new army of tourism ambassadors is ready for action in North East Wales. The aim of the scheme to train tour guides is to boost tourism in the wake of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal Corridor being named as a World Heritage Site. That means the area is now ranked alongside the likes of the pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef and North Wales castles such as Caernarfon and Conwy.
The newly-qualified Green Badge guides are now able to operate in Wrexham, Denbighshire Flintshire after being presented with their certificates at a special ceremony at Ruthin Castle. The training was provided by Coleg Llandrillo Cymru and Tourism Partnership North Wales, the organisation responsible for the strategic development of the region’s visitor economy. Qualifying as a tour guide has added another string to the bow of field archeologist Ian Davies, from Chirk. He said: “A lot of what I will be telling people about as a tour guide I will glean from being an archaeologist, and I’ve got a general interest in Welsh so it just seems a natural progression. It was six months of hard work which involved a lot of study but it was also very enjoyable and rewarding. I’m looking forward to taking tourists out on guided tours in the future.”
Patricia Roberts, from Prestatyn, was sent on the course by her employers, the Tweedmill Shopping Outlet, in St Asaph, where she normally works in the bedding and curtains department. She explained: “Tweedmill are extending and spending £2.5 million. We’re having a Tourist Information Centre and we’re going to be taking tours out of there to improve the business. It was hard work but I learned loads and I absolutely love the area. There’s just so much history out there and I want everybody to know about it.”
Nia Jones, the Head of Travel and Tourism at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, said: We wanted to create an army of ambassadors who are passionate about promoting the area. “Visitors like to hear about history and stories relating to certain areas from a person rather than going around with headphones on an audio tour. There is a wealth of natural scenery to industrial heritage in this area and the tour guides can enhance the experience and deliver a more professional service. The newly-qualified guides have gone through a gruelling 26 week course of immense product knowledge. They have also gained necessary skills such as group management, health and safety, understanding the requirements of coach operators, itinerary planning and so on. It was tough going but the motivation of the group never waned, they were an exemplary group. They will make this area an even more attractive destination for visitors and, as well as coach tours, we’d love to see them delivering walking tours in Llangollen, Wrexham, Ruthin and Denbigh. We hope that some of these guides will proceed on to do the Blue Badge for Wales which is the pan Wales qualification.”
According to Dewi Davies, the Regional Strategy Director of Tourism Partnership North Wales, it was vital the area capitalised on being designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. He said: “There are lots of giant attractions like Erddig in Wrexham, Plas Newydd in Llangollen, Ruthin Gaol but there are also local stories like the story of the novelist Daniel Owen in Mold. If anything, the visitor economy is even more important when times are tough. These days more people are staying at home for their main holidays and taking day trips from the conurbations of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. North Wales is very familiar to those communities and it is important that our customers get a fresh and more meaningful look and tour guides can provide that greater insight. They can bring the whole experience to life for visitors. In the modern age, providing the personal touch and a personal angle on a story is even more important. People are relying even more on electronic gadgets like smart phones. They all have their place but you can’t beat a story well told by a well-informed tour guide. Our objective is to provide a brilliant experience that stands out when our visitors go back home so that they tell their friends and persuade them to follow in their footsteps.”