Why the ‘Visit’ tourism agencies should be afraid . . .

Coastguard storm 2I am very blessed to live in our sceptred isles; they are truly beautiful. Our coastlines are magnificent, separating the ever evolving land from the strength and majesty of the sea. And the sea’s fury and malevolence was clearly seen in this year storms, when our coasts were well and truly battered.

Thank goodness for the Coastguard MRCCs, their experience, expertise and local knowledge kept everyone safe. So many people owe their lives to them, not just in the storms but every day of the year. The RNLI and all the independent coastguards are also guided by them; they are the experts. The Transport Select Committee in the Houses of Parliament knows this, experienced sea travellers know this, a large number of MPs knows this, and, basically, lots and lots of us know this. It’s common sense.

Forth CoastguardCLYDE-ribbonThe Department for Transport (DfT) and the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) choose to ignore this and, in their never ending quest to save money for what they consider to be inconsequential matters, they are closing half the coastguard stations we have round our coasts.

So?

So, Visit Britain, Visit England, Visit Scotland, Visit Wales and Discover Northern Ireland, should all sit up and take notice of what is happening. They should read today’s story in the Express about the subject. It states facts not spin, it states facts from people who know, people who are experienced, not guys in grey suits saving a few pounds here and there. One can but hope they put the tourists’ safety before anything else.

Yarmouth coastguard deathMistakes have already happened. East Anglia is a beautiful destination. But due to the indifference and arrogance of the Great Yarmouth MP, Brandon Lewis, Yarmouth MRCC was allowed to close. East Anglia, is now covered by the Coastguard stations at Dover and Humber! And local knowledge was nowhere to be found in a diving incident earlier this year. Humber sent a lifeboat that was not the nearest to the incident. The nearest lifeboat, which is an independent one, saw the one sent go past it. Big mistake. The busiest shipping area in the world and the MCA closes the Coastguard station, it beggars belief.

And then there is Wales; hugely diverse landscapes to explore, beaches, prehistoric caves, limestone cliffs, woodland, salt marsh, and so much more.coastguard gower

The Gower is designated an area of outstanding beauty and it’s easy to see why, the peninsular is stunning and the Swansea Coastguard, which was built as a main communications centre, does an incredible job of monitoring and responding to one of the largest number of incidents a station has. 

coastguard swansea signGuess what?  Yes, the MCA has decided Swansea, the ‘Maritime and Coastguard Agency Headquarters, Wales and West of England’ is one to close. Sir Alan Massey, ‘affectionately’ known as SAM, has stated that response times may be ten minutes longer, doesn’t take anywhere near that long to drown!

Involved in our wonderful travel and tourism industry as I am, I fear for the safety of the tourists we are trying to attract to our beautiful coastal areas. With incidents increasing and responsible travel becoming more popular, having holidays and short breaks in our own wonderful isles is on the up.

I pray the rookies aren’t hung out to dry and the MCA and DfT is held totally and utterly responsible for incidents which are not handled correctly. The future isn’t bright.

Ecuador and conscious tourism; sadly not.

Anna - slide-42-728Last year, Ecuador held a conference called ‘Conscious Tourism’, which was hailed as a wonderful success and a beacon to lead the way forward for tourism. Ecuador made a very bold statement then.

This new strategy was based on the principles of sustainability and ethics; and promoted the values ​​of peace, friendship, respect and love of life as the essence of tourist practice.

n american may the sun, blessingI chose the slide above from the presentation made by the keynote speaker and founder of Conscious Travel, Anna Pollock. It is a beautiful saying from Malaysia, that captures how the very wise indigenous people see our planet. The Native Americans knew/know how precious our wondrous planet is, they used only what they needed to live. They did not have laws, they did not need them. They looked out for each other and lived peacefully, and America was bountiful. Then the white man came and brought the evils of egos and empires, and America changed beyond recognition. It’s the same in most countries. I haven’t gone off on a tangent, it’s not too late to listen to what they say, it’s not too late to save this planet. But . . . . .

Reading what had been said at the conference by representatives of different countries and of the UNWTO; I, and many others, were filled with a new hope. No more of the old industrial model of mass tourism, but a new respect for what each country has, their unique cultures and characteristics.

And now there is a race to save Ecuador’s Yasuni national park from the oil lobby. Green groups are frantically campaigning for a petition to force a national referendum to block President Correa’s unilateral sanction for drilling. Yet again, it’s all about the money and not nature that gives us life.

Talk is easy, the annual conferences have ‘leaders’ of tourism, saying wonderfully scripted promises for the future – but it is action we need. Action and a shared aim to conserve and celebrate what we have and not just go on developing for its own sake. We do not need same old, same old . . . . We need determined change, we need commitments from governments to make the changes. 

Sneak thieves and wharf rats in Scotland, rubbing salt into the wound

Forth Coastguard Station

Just when you thought things could not get any worse, the dangerous, and seriously flawed, Government & MCA plans to close eight of our wonderful Coastguard Stations, have been put into action – early!

As announced on the Milford Haven Coastguard page on facebook –

“At 1330 utc the final Maritime safety information broadcast will be sent by the staff at MRCC Forth. On completion of this broadcast all operational responsibility will be passed to MRCC Aberdeen and Forth Coastguard will cease to exist, bringing to an end 109 years of Coastguards being at Fifeness. Safe seas, calm waters and light winds to all.”

Forth Coastguard Station was due to close on the 28th September; big mistake in itself, but to rub the salt into the wound, they sneakily closed it this Friday, 21st September!  Why would they do that?

There are several potential reasons:-

  1. Negligent management by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), under the ‘guidance’ of Sir Alan Massey. By allowing staffing numbers to become so dangerously low, they could not achieve a full compliment for the shift patterns. To close the station early would hide this appalling situation.
  2. Just three days before the closure, on Tuesday 18th, Sir Alan Massey and Stephen Hammond, Under Secretary of State for Transport Minister, were answering questions, in front of The Scottish Affairs Committee.  Luckily, most of the focus was on the Clyde Coastguard Station with Sir Alan Massey explaining about the pairing between Stornoway & Belfast, although he could not answer a few, very important questions, such as would the exams for the pairing knowledge take place before the closure (Sir Alan stated that you could not go on watch without having passed the exams) and the answer being I hope so! When Sir Alan Massey seemed to be unable to answer a question directly, Stephen Hammond blustered in with patronising quotes he had read since taking over the position from Mike Penning, a few days earlier. You should watch the committee in action to form you own opinions, my opinion is the four Scottish Ministers were thorough in their questions, knowledgeable and credible; whereas, Massey and Hammond did a lot of puffing, postulating and posing, but definitely showed no credibility. How sad. The number of contradictions and mistakes, in what they are saying is pretty incredible, even for politicians!

I am sorry that I did not publish this when I wrote it, I was so angry and upset at this tragedy unfolding that I wanted to continue the post later, but I just can’t.  It is only a matter of time before our coastal jewels become our poisoned chalices!

Oh, and by the way – there was much said about the Forth Coastguard Station closure (all of it against) and so they pretended to have another closure the following Friday, the scheduled date!  Normal service will be resumed when the blood pressure has gone back to normal!

The journey to WTM 2010 – double trouble!

This year, I was looking forward to going to the Tweet-up at St Albans on my way to World Travel Market.  The fabulous Andy Jarosz of 501 Places had been hosting a weekend bloggers trip for travel bloggers and then, on the Sunday evening, there was an open invitation for other Tweeters to join the fun.

The Saturday had been hectic with moving house; boxes were everywhere and Sunday was filled with trying to make some sense of the disorder and copywriting & proofreading ready for the next day.  Tempus fugit – the time was suddenly half past six in the evening – argh!

Quick call to Andy to explain that I couldn’t make St Albans by 7.30 but would be there as soon as I could.  Ah yes, just a quick shower, pack the case and off!   Trains every half hour and it takes an hour to St Albans.  Aleck, my son, took me to the station for the next train and …. away I didn’t go!  They had engineering work happening on the line and buses were taking passengers to the next station (Flitwick) to pick up the trains there – oh joy.

Aleck took me to Flitwick and, as we got there, we watched the train pull out of the station, giving us a half hour until the next one.  By the time I did actually get to sit on a train, it was gone 9 o’clock and I wasn’t going anywhere quickly!  Sadly I sent a text to Andy to apologise for not being there; I wasn’t exactly a happy bunny as had been looking forward to the event for ages.  I got to St Pancras to find I’d left my oyster card at home, which, as it turned out, was a blessing.  Went to get a new card and the nice man at the ticket office asked where I was going.  When I said I needed to get to Custom House, he then told me I couldn’t go the usual way because, guess why?, they were doing engineering works, and proceeded to give me alternative routes!  Oh for goodness sake, not again, but I thought it wouldn’t be that bad.  Big mistake, I finally checked in at the hotel at gone midnight!  What a ‘super’ start to the week!

Since the World Travel Market moved to Excel, and after the first year’s horrendous transport debacle, each year, WTM and Transport For London have told us that the transport will be much improved and stress free – and each year it isn’t!  WTM is the biggest event that takes place at Excel and involves people from all over this wonderful world of ours.  For some it’s the first time they have been to England.  It really saddens me to think that the first impressions are of Heathrow airport, which would never win a beauty contest; but the London train system would beat it hands down for the ‘fail whale’!

Just two years to the Olympics, oh my goodness, it is really frightening.