THE MONDAY MOAN – A once a week spot for us to moan about the stuff that perhaps we should all be moaning about that little bit more… 

Following on from last weeks blistering attack on VisitWales and it’s inability to effectively promote Wales and it’s obvious favouring of some over others I thought I should keep on going and finish off a long planned in critique of the management of the tourism budget for Wales.

I believe that the tourism budget ought to be administered by the providers themselves, with no paid officials but instead with targeted spends with campaign companies and with local spends for website maintenance. Much more effective and far cheaper than the current system which has been year on year criticised for not delivering whilst squandering millions of pounds of public money.

There is a lot to go through but I will try to keep it simply as bullet points and where necessary links out to the relevant detailed information.

For twenty years I have been on and off working with VisitWales to try to have them do the right thing. In the past I have been assisted in this by others but most don’t want to rock the boat, feeling it will injure their business. I have had admittance of poor service and even wrongdoing in the past but generally complaints are dealt with by sidelining the complainer. Either that or making them a preferred client and so bringing them ‘into the fold’.

It’s not a conspiracy. It’s simply nepotism and mismanagement on a grand and ongoing scale. Here is my latest and almost year long saga and what a sorry tale for the future of tourism in Wales it is…

On the 8th January I made a complaint about the Welsh Government disrupting the marketplace by subsidising their friends to provide a very similar service to a Wales Outdoors residential. This is the timeline:

8/1 – notification of disruption of marketplace due to business subsidy sent to Welsh Gov.

9/1 – passed to rural communities

21/1 – chasing email sent

29/1 – chasing email sent

4/2 – demand response and copied to MP

4/2 – copy and paste response received that didn’t answer any of my questions 

4/2 – follow up email asking for explanation and answers

18/2 – threat of small claim due to non response

18/2 – Wales Rural Network say they are not responsible

18/2 – passed on to VisitWales with correct contact email 

24/2 date set for original meeting

Look at that, nearly two months to get a date for a meeting! Then Covid hit. I finally managed to, after many reminders, to have a meeting on the 23rd September 2020…

By then though my business had been removed from the VisitWales website. Was this an act of revenge for making a complaint?

Here is one of it’s listings on the 7th May and subsequently and without notice deleted by the team at VisitWales.

When I noticed and complained they said I needed to be an accredited business to appear on the VisitWales site. I told them that there were many guided walk providers who were not accredited that were listed on VisitWales. INCREDIBLY instead of reaching out to those providers and finding a way forwards the summarily deleted them all.

OUTRAGEOUSLY and this still remains the case to date, there are NO guided walk providers listed on the VisitWales website. Please remember Wales’ key tourism target is walkers and those who enjoy exploring the great outdoors.

I choose not to be accredited, along with all other guided walk providers it seems, as the accreditation scheme is not fit for purpose. It’s designed in fact for adventure activity providers delivering multiple adventure activities and with multiple staff. Wales Outdoors delivers walks that the average person could be reasonably expected to walk on their own and on public footpaths. This is a big difference to going on a coasteering adventure or taking part in a climbing day.

In fact any inspection would be ludicrous with the inspector being far less proficient in the delivery of hill walking in Wales than myself. It’s just another expensive layer of bureaucracy that I will always refuse to engage with. I propose that I’ve been inspected for safety by Mountain Leader Training when I passed my ML, I am insured to 5 Million and I believe that my 5 Star feedback is further ‘inspection’ by members of the public. It’s interesting that VisitWales will promote Clyne Farm (see last weeks blog post) when almost half of their feedback is a string of one stars with criticism being mostly about safety of various aspects of their provision…

My telephone conversation with a VisitWales senior manager on the 23rd September was wide ranging but covered these questions, none of which were, to my satisfaction, answered. It was a heated call with no acceptance on behalf of VisitWales of any wrongdoing and with no desire to further engage with the Guided Walk Providers or it seems with remedying the problems associated with grant funding start ups and committee dreamt up innovations.

I asked these questions:

  • What safeguards are in place to ensure that public money is not used to subsidise new business ventures and so disrupting the marketplace and perhaps displacing existing business?
  • What are ‘Visit Wales’ priorities’ in delivering complimentary therapies to a small group of people?
  • Where is the ‘evidence of need’ for this to be considered and funded?
  • Where is there ‘value for money’ when I could have delivered the same at NO COST to the Welsh Government and therefore the taxpayer?
  • Why was Wales Outdoors removed from the VisitWales website?
  • Why did VisitWales remove all guided walk providers without consulting with them?
  • Why does VisitWales see guided walk providers similarly to Adventure Activity Specialists and so expect them to have the same spend and jump through the same hoops?
  • When would multiple listings by the same company be removed from the VisitWales website?

I made it clear that if Wales Outdoors was in any way negatively effected by the Welsh Government funding any currently operating or start up business that Wales Outdoors would be taking the Welsh Government to Cardiff Courts for reparation.

It was agreed that there is no value for money and I was told that I just have to be accredited to be listed. VisitWales would not negotiate with guided walk providers on this and despite it being strange that guided walks providers are missing from the tourism portal to Wales that is how this would remain.

I was told multiple listings would be removed from the VisitWales website. To date this has not been done.

Lastly I mentioned that given VisitWales’ firmly declared commitment to safety why do they not look at what is freely available on the internet, on YouTube, and check out the actual safety practices and the working outside of agreed and binding boundaries of providers that they promote. Perhaps they could have a review? Of course, they are not skilled to do this and so will never do this. The industry itself is fearful of where their next contract will come from and so will not criticise individual providers. It’s a joke. But you can check out the safety of other providers. Here is the list I provided to Visit Wales with short descriptions of H&S failings. I include a couple of Wales Outdoors videos from when we were adventure activity providers to demonstrate how things ought to be…

Blue Ocean – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BETlzw9Va2E – shows working outside of the concordat, river right, and with trainers and walking beside big drops with no protection

Wales Outdoors – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ja7QeYD9qCw – boots, queuing, fully protected – made by a client

Big Blue – kids – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-_4TmzTzXw – trainers 

Mynydd Outdoor – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNWXyNV5CLw – idiotic jumps into a river that was running high, trainers, no assistance 

Unknown – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do2Thhd5DAI – trainers, real risk of injury or death, outside of protocols, river right 58minutes insane cascade 61 minutes risk of death

Limitless Adventures – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7kSWn1GPhM – backflip, trainers, tree,  outside of protocols river right

Mynydd Adventure – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwfztPC-1eQ – look at the cascade! trainers high jump top pool – 2 jump in spate

Unknown – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ool2ZGN_cg4 – outside of protocols trainers poor instructor care

Wales Outdoors – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5V43viXDps – boots, neatly queuing

Adventures Wales – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=512P3i-G7FE – trainers, outside of protocols, no client protection on climbs 

Black Mountain Activities – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fP-pVI906zU – trainers

Ultimate Activity – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llb9VYDV0As – I’ll fitting helmets, trainers, dangerous at loonies

Ultimate Activity – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llb9VYDV0As – I’ll fitting helmets, trainers, dangerous at loonies

I heard once that if you thought life was fair then you had much to learn or that you would be very disappointed, or something along those lines. Life isn’t fair but I keep on believing it doesn’t have to be this way.

I won’t work with VisitWales. They are beyond corruption and beyond repair. It’s time to walk away from the power and organically build friendly societies that have nothing to do with authority end everything to do with people.

My first action in this is to make it clear to those that gain income from companies and institutions that are not compliant with ‘nothing to do with authority end everything to do with people’ that they are not welcome on Wales Outdoors walks. So, if you work for VisitWales please note that you are banned from attending our walks. We have to start somewhere…

Author

Walk leader @ Wales Outdoors, life model @ Cardiff Life Models and poet @ Self Published