Tag Archives: Visit Wales

Family holidays in Wales

So here’s the dilemma. I’m trying to choose a family-holiday escape suitable for my two girls aged two and six.

I’m looking for something with a back-to-basics feel and a close-to-home destination. I don’t want Disney. I want to bring the girls closer to nature, dip out of the daily grind and spend undivided time with them to build cherished childhood memories.

Tricky decisions

The destination bit is the easy bit. Wales, obviously, for its good value for money, simplicity, the friendly people and the natural beauty.

But what to do and where to stay? Now that’s the problem. I’m looking at the Family Holidays section of the Visit Wales web site but I’m confused.

There’s too much going on but not enough sense of insider knowledge. I want a shopping list for groceries but, for a once-a-summer family break, I want to feel an expert is sharing their personal insider knowledge with me.

I also want to know what other families are doing and for them to share their top tips with the forum.

And, on a practical level, I want to navigate my way around the site easily, accessing material from a central page, not having to follow an endless stream of links around labyrinthine sub-directories.

A new look

So how to improve it? Personally, I would make the following suggestions:

  1. Make it more personal. A weekly blog to be written by an expert voice, highlighting a great thing to do that week.
  2. Give it a face. I want to know who the expert is and why they’re qualified to advise me on where to take my children.
  3. Human interaction. Stop using pictures of people with their backs to the camera. If you’re on holiday in Wales, wouldn’t you be smiling?
  4. Work with the medium, not against it. No more chunky text but a clearer writing style better suited to reading on mobile and tablet formats.
  5. More multimedia. Use of image galleries, short video clips and audioboos to make it less static.
  6. Use social media. Push content through Twitter then harvest comments, tips and other user-generated content to compile lists of tips, or provide follow-up story ideas.
  7. Cross link. Bring new material to a wider audience by promoting it on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and other platforms where Visit Wales already has a presence.
  8. Make it a good read. The tone needs to be inspiring and fun as well as informative. You need good, updated information but it needs to hold your attention too.
  9. Keep it fresh. It needs to be relevant to what’s happening now – half term, St David’s Day, Easter egg trails etc.
  10. Simplify navigation. One page for family holidays with a lead story and a menu of links, plus a column of social media. People read differently online, so lead the eye naturally.

Well, that’s what I’d do. Maybe you have other suggestions – if so, post them below.

Booking confirmed

And as for our summer hols? Well, in the end I chose a holiday based on a recommendation from a friend in Cardiff.

Maya, Olivia and I are going to spend a few nights at Cae Mabon near Llanberis, staying in one of the lodges. We’ll be joining in the bushcraft and listening to owner Eric Madden’s story time each evening.

The girls are excited. We check in August 13.

Sorted.

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Filed under Online writing, Travel writing, Wales

Book review: Around Wales By B-roads and Byways

Regular readers will know I’ve been away on assignment in Croatia. During the journey, I was reading about another writer’s journey closer to home.

I was sent a copy of the latest book by Jamie Owen, the BBC Wales TV and radio presenter, for review. Around Wales By B-roads and Byways (Ebury Press, £20) is his fourth book and based on a journey around his homeland.

Journalistic credentials

If anyone knows Wales, Jamie should. Pembrokeshire born and Cardiff-based, he comes with a raft of journalistic credentials and a wealth of personal experience.

So, why then does this book fall flat? It’s strange that the journalistic flair he employs in the day job is cast aside here like sheep droppings on a Snowdonia back road.

Wales is rich with colourful local characters quick to spin a yarn. Yet they are mostly absent. Wales lends itself to lyrical description of its natural beauty. Yet the tone is flat and pedestrian. Wales is an ideal places to dig out an interesting anecdote, or delve into an ancient folk legend. Yet the action is related as a series of simple episodes without humour or intrigue.

Profound conclusions

In the conclusion, he writes:

It seems wrong to draw profound conclusions from a relatively modest jaunt around a small country.

And therein lies the problem. By his own admission, this book is a little too lightweight. I want some sense of conclusion, some sense of what he (and hence us) learn from his journey about the changing nature of Wales and Welsh cultural identity.

But, by omitting much of the country from his route map, these fragments of journeys feel disjointed and lacking a coherent aim. It’s just a walk for walking sake.

Rich seam

Wales is changing, and there’s a rich seam of material to be mined from this evolution. The world is crying out for a book that captures that zeitgeist.

I’m sure Jamie is a lovely bloke and a first-class journalist. I even sat next to him once at a Visit Wales event and, although I’m sure he doesn’t remember me at all, he was charming and professional.

But if he’s not up to writing the book Wales deserves, maybe somebody else should.

Somebody like me.

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Why doesn’t everyone simply love Wales?

Did you wear your daffodil with pride this week? I did. In fact, in preparation for St David’s Day, I’d actually been there, done that and written the feature, exploring links to the patron saint of Wales in St Davids, Pembrokeshire.

Read my story here in Metro.

St David's Cathedral

Coming up

Visit Wales gathered a group of journalists in London this week to talk up some of the projects for the year ahead: the linking of the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways, the Angela Gray cooking schools and, most importantly, the 2010 Ryder Cup to be staged at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, from October 1-3.

There was plenty to crow about. Four Michelin stars, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 500 miles of National Trails among them.

Yet visitor numbers are down – just under 0.9m trips by overseas tourists in 2007. Why?

Image problem

Wales has reinvented itself in the last ten years, so why do people still have an outdated image of the county – the kind exemplified by a headline from the Sunday Telegraph last winter:

Q. Why don’t tourists flock to lovely Wales? A. Because the Welsh can be rude and unfriendly (say the English).

A contact of mine in Cardiff keeps a list of well-known people who are classed as UTBW – Used to be Welsh. Having grabbed their moment in the spotlight, they are keen to shun their ancestral links to the country.

The BBC website this week also reports on the new Welsh stars, the celebrities who play down their ancestral links to the green, green grass of a Welsh home.

St Non's Chapel, St Davids

Changing perceptions

I don’t get it. After the huge changes in the tourism industry in Wales, why do people still turn their nose up at the thought of a weekend in Snowdonia, or a short break in Pembrokeshire?

Personally, I’d much rather be in Wales than snowed in around Scotland or feigning interest in the faux ‘craic’ in Ireland.

But what do other people think? I’m about to start work on another Wales project and will be focusing this spring on North Wales in particular.

Please post your perceptions below and help to shape my research.

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