Now is the time to fall in love with Llandovery

It’s no secret that Llandovery is fit for a Prince – or indeed a future King – but the town’s people of Llandovery have much grander plans afoot which they hope will spark a long love affair with visitors to the area. And with just over two weeks to go, final preparations are in hand for a unique event being held in Llandovery town centre on Saturday 14th August.

With the support of Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s COLLABOR8 project and the Llandovery & District Chamber of Commerce the town have gone to great lengths to explore their strengths and assets to create a vibrant new destination brand identity which they hope will boost tourism to the town and put Llandovery firmly on the map.

Nick Stewart, Sustainable Tourism Officer for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority said: “Llandovery is a unique town that celebrates its rural location and droving heritage with great pride – and although the area is well known for attracting royalty, the town is working hard behind the scenes to attract more of the types of visitors that will enjoy what the town has to offer.

“Although we can’t say too much, what we can say is that a new brand identity, logo and big collage of over 400 photographs contributed by the people of the town are being unveiled by the Mayor and Llandovery & District Chamber of Commerce at a public event at the Market Square 11am on Saturday 14th August.  So everyone who loves Llandovery and for those who haven’t had the pleasure to visit the town, we urge you to come along and join in the celebrations.”

Fiona Walker, Chairman of the Llandovery & District Chamber of Commerce said:  “Working in partnership with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, we’ve put together an action plan to develop tourism sustainably in Llandovery. An important part of that has been to create a recognisable brand that identifies the town as a great place to live and visit. It will enable us to attract more of the types of visitor we want – visitors whose motivations and interests match what we have to offer and want to share.”

Nigel Burgess, Mayor of Llandovery who will be speaking at the launch event said:  “This is a great opportunity to use tourism to contribute to the revitalisation and regeneration of Llandovery. Our historic town, friendly community and the outstanding natural beauty of the area are great assets and the new brand is an invitation to visitors who will enjoy and value that.”

There will be face-painting for children and plenty of shops to visit, cafes to relax in and benches to just sit and enjoy the special Llandovery atmosphere.  For more information please contact Nick Stewart, Sustainable Tourism Officer (Collabor8 Project) on 01874 620 490 or Fiona Walker, Chairman of the Llandovery & District Chamber of Commerce on 07974 434 991.

Nick Stewart is a current student at the ICRT

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An industry of kindly strangers

When travel is undertaken with an eye to kindness, tourists will travel with humility and with a desire to learn. They will think of themselves as guests in somebody else’s home. By traveling with respect, they will earn respect. In fact, tourists will “travel like Gandhi with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind,” as Rick Steves said.

Holidays will be about mutually beneficial exchanges of trust, wisdom and humor with local people rather than about being cocooned in compounds marketed as all inclusive resorts. Holiday stories about the diversity of local cultures and about the new friends and knowledge that visitors have gained, will replace stories about the cheapness of the resort.

Instead of hawking a superficial exoticism and a reconstructed ethnicity, the tourism industry will treasure and celebrate local cultures. Rather than trinketize them, degrade ecosystems and coca-colonize the planet, the industry will serve to enhance and protect fragile cultures and the environments that they depend on.

The tourism industry will cease to “discover”, exploit and discard destinations in order to move on to and wreck the next unspoiled paradise. Rather than imposing its will on destinations, the travel industry will work in partnership with local people and governments to create better places for local communities and for tourists.

And we will see a revolution of understanding between people from different cultures. The culture of fear and mistrust generated by the media will be replaced with a culture of understanding and respect, generated by shared experiences. Tourists will rediscover the magic of travel.

Justin Francis responsibletravel.com and IKnowaGreatPlace.com

First published: 2003, ed. Roddick, Anita. A Revolution in Kindness. Sussex: Anita Roddick Publications

Justin Francis completed the ICRT Masters at Greenwich in 2001

To Green and Beyond!

With a degree of enthusiasm and maybe boyish naivety (of the Buzz Lightyear variety) I have set about encouraging change at a grass roots level within my community of Kangaroo Valley NSW. Since June 2007 a GHG Emissions reduction program has been running. We now have a third of the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association membership pledged to reduce their emissions. The programme involves on-line auditing, energy reduction and renewable energy recommendations. You can see an
early report on ABC tv

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWZu9_fSgUI

I have also now completed a historic walk which involved quite considerable research and liaison with other stakeholders. This establishes a foundation of what our community considers “heritage” and thus provides a focus for tourism businesses and our guests.

My next action is to transform the Green Kangaroo program into a RT destination plan – if re elected on the 19th July as President of the Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association. This will involve:

  • auditing our accessible tourism facilities
  • development of our distinctive qualities using local produce
  • education on the merits of the greening supply chain
  • evolving the offset activities into conservation that helps protect wildlife corridors
  • conducting a follow up phase of research to learn operator motivations
  • conducting a follow up phase of audits to see what specific change has been achieved in three years.
  • and of course changing the “Going Carbon Neutral” descriptor into a “Responsible Destination Partner”

On Monday 19th July a Code of Ethics will be voted on at our AGM. If approved this will in itself be a milestone. This code will become a guide for future members of the management committee and for operators. Likewise it will become a beacon to encourage other community tourist associations to consider their values.

A presentation of this case study will be made at the 4th International Responsible Tourism Conference in Oman.

To date the project has caught the imagination of the local Shoalhaven City Council and I am preparing a plan to extend what we have in Kangaroo Valley across the region.

The project has also been recognised by the NSW Government and on several occasions I have been asked to present the case history at various industry and community meetings. It has also boosted my credibility and I am now a policy advisor to EcoTourism Australia.

Certainly I use my own business, Crystal Creek Meadows, as a practical demonstration of how RT provides real holidays and improves economic sustainability. Students field trips, operators visits are encouraged and Sophie, my wife and I gladly demonstrate our points of difference and how to engage visitors to act responsibly. We like to use the WRTD date as a “line in the sand” and build on the international momentum. This year we will focus of accessible tourism.

I will post progress on the community, regional and WRTD progress as it happens. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like more details.

Responsible Skiing in Bulgaria?

What do you picture when you think of a winter holiday in Bulgaria?  Perhaps somewhere a bit cheap and cheerful?   Somewhere with rather a lot of building work going on?   That you might get pressured to buy an apartment?  Maybe somewhere that’s ok for beginners but not good skiers?

Me too.

I have to say that much of the above is sadly true.  On my recent trip to Bulgaria, I visited the three key resorts of Pamporovo, Bansko and Borovets and yes – particularly for us exchange-rate challenged Brits – it was relatively cheap.   There were lots of apartments unfinished and for sale (though no-one tried to sell me one) but there was no actual building work going on – the recession has put a stop to that.   The piste skiing was – well – yes, better suited to beginners and intermediates.

In fact, there was a certain sadness about the ski resorts.   They were developed on a model similar to that which was successful for many resort developers in the United States – based on real estate sales.   That model, so dependent on a buoyant economy, has shown its flaws.  It has resulted in the loss of a lot of land, ghost towns of unsold apartments that even when sold would have remained empty for much of the time and probably a fairly ‘bland’ international experience with ‘enclaves’ of tourists kept separate from the villages and locals.

Additionally, there are disputes locally about the boundaries of the ski resorts and national parks and Unesco is considering withdrawing its Biosphere accreditation for the uniqueness of national park around Bansko as the developers cut into and destroyed centuries old forests.

Not really Responsible Skiing is it?

However, what I am really pleased to report is that there is another completely different side to Bulgaria – waiting to be discovered….

Well, firstly some fabulous family run hotels where you are treated to some wonderful local delicacies – and the food is delicious – though it’s probably a good thing I didn’t stay too long – I was in danger of getting seriously addicted to Bulgarian bread!  And in case you were thinking the standard might be lacking – definitely not so – all were spotless with modern bathrooms and seriously comfortable beds and one even had a wellness area – very Austrian.

Secondly, wonderful hospitality from everyone I met – keen to share the beauty and potential of their country – and their plum brandy!

Thirdly, some beautiful landscapes – wild and untouched – unlike some regions of the Alps that are almost overmanaged for tourism.

Fourthly, snowshoeing – a wonderful way to explore the mountains – in peace – and away from the hoards and ski touring for the more adventurous.

Fifthly, a culture that I knew nothing about; from the Thracians to the icon artists who pre-empted the Renaissance to the ornately decorated churches.

Sixthly, some wonderful taverns down cobbled streets with regional food and richly decorated local pottery.

Seventhly – is that a word?  Well, I could go on and on….

Now we’re talking Responsible Skiing – Bulgaria has so much potential and so much to delight the international traveller in search of the authentic and so much to offer for a real winter holiday.

Bulgaria has both extremes of tourism development – the best and the worst.

It is also suffering a hangover from the communist era of corruption, new capitalist opportunists, a lack of planning control and a lack of direction and strategy.   However, the good news is that there are glimmers of hope that things might change.   I spoke at a conference funded by the EU, to introduce CSR and Responsible Tourism into the golf, sea and ski markets earlier this year.   It was attended by many in government and tourism positions and, together with help from the EU, there seems to be a move to change the direction of development for Bulgaria.   Most are appalled by much of the development and, with a little help from the recession, hopefully that tourism model will cease.

We need to keep our fingers crossed they take a new path….

Veronica Tonge Graduated 2007

http://www.responsibleskiing.com

http://www.arealwinterholiday.com

http://www.responsibleskiing.com/veronicas-blog.html

veronica.tonge@dial.pipex.com