Nick Stewart introduces an innovative scheme in the Brecon Beacons that involves local tourism businesses championing the uniqueness of the National Park
The Brecon Beacon Ambassadors Scheme aims to provide visitors with an insight into what makes the park so special.
Selected 'Ambassadors' are usually owners of local businesses who have undergone several days of training to help them share with visitors the distinctiveness of the Park's wildlife, history, cultural heritage and geology.
While the National Park Authority staff (such as the wardens you might see out on the hills) are the official representatives, the Ambassadors are informal advocates of the area. Examples of Ambassadors include Punch Maughan, Glynmeddig Bunkhouse, Sennybridge, Ceri Scott Howell, Coity Bach Cottages, Talybont-on-Usk, and Keith White, Brynhonddu B&B, Abergavenny.
The idea of the scheme is that by learning about the special qualities of the destination such as the wildlife, history, cultural heritage and geology, the Ambassadors are able to enhance their visitors’ understanding and appreciation of the place they are holidaying in. It’s all about the experience: getting under the skin and appreciating the special and distinctive qualities of the Brecon Beacons. In tourism circles, it’s part of what is known as creating a ‘sense of place’ – a sense that where you are is different to everywhere else. It’s done through the use of local food for example, the use of local arts and crafts in decor and the telling of true stories or myths and legends specific to the area.
There’s a serious conservation aspect to training up tourism Ambassadors too. Since they have attended days of training to give visitors a better understanding of the Brecon Beacons National Park, in this way it’s hoped that tourists will leave - and come back - as keen supporters of the protected landscape.
Ambassador businesses range from accommodation providers to pub landlords to walks and other activity-based businesses. The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has gone further than this though by laying on a subset of the Ambassadors training specifically for taxi-drivers. Aptly named the ‘National Park Knowledge’ – a name that might make anyone who knows anything about London black cab driver training smile – these taxi drivers can give visitors more than just a ride to their destination. If you fancy more than your usual salt-of-the-earth cabbie type chat whilst on holiday, using a National Park Knowledge driver will reveal some interesting nuggets of information as you journey en route to your destination.
Subjects National Park Ambassadors cover include ‘Sense of Place’, ‘Customer Care’ and something delightfully called ‘Park in Your Heart’ which gives a trot through 480 million years of geology and wildlife as well as topics like how climate change might impact on the Brecon Beacons – and how tourism businesses and their guests can help to mitigate these changes through the use of public transport for example.
There are always more keen budding Ambassadors than there are places on courses which says something about the enthusiasm and appetite of local businesses to learn about and promote sustainable tourism wrapped up with giving their customers richer, more distinctive experiences.
Details of the Ambassadors scheme can be found on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s website: http://www.breconbeacons.org