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.

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Street Child World Cup 2014

SCWC-Logo-Brazil2014If you don’t know about Street Child World Cup, let me tell you about these wonderful people. The Street Child organisation had its first event at the South African World Cup in 2010 and things started to happen. South Africa made changes to the whole matter of street children – and all to the good. Life is wonderful, when you make a difference.

In the world of travel and tourism, the street children are often hidden away and never ever mentioned – the countries’ governments do not usually understand nor address the situation. The children are not worthy, they have no official identification, they do not exist. In putting the teams together, the Street Child World Cup (SCWC) team works with local charities and government agencies in each country. This gives encouragement to improve the way they deal with homeless children, sometimes from seeing them as criminal vagrants to recognising them as human beings who need support. For the first time, often, they are registered as citizens so they can be given a passport. And the needs of the wider homeless community are spotlighted as a result.

These children on the road to Rio 2014 come from 19 different countries; there are both boys and girls teams. All they want to say is ‘I Am Somebody’. The countries are El Salvador, USA, Zimbabwe, Argentina, England, Mozambique, Nicaragua, South Africa, Burundi, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Liberia, Brazil, Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania and the Philippines. Have a look at the SCWC website to find out more.

I am very proud and privileged to have been included in the volunteer comms team going to Rio – so lucky, I’ll get to make a difference. All the volunteers met up at a weekend training session at Gilwell House in Epping Forest last week. So inspiring, so many fabulous people.

Should you wish to make a difference too, I’m trying to raise £2000 towards the central fund, it costs about £1,000 per child to get them there – and it has such an impact on their lives – this is the world cup that matters. Please donate here justgiving.com/lynnerosie – thank you.

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. 

Samoa and falling in love

What country has had this said of it?

“Sheer beauty, so pure that it is difficult to breathe it in”

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and of the people,

“The loveliest people in the world, moving and dancing like gods and goddesses, very quietly and mysteriously, and utterly content”

The country is the sacred centre of the Polynesian Islands. The country is Samoa.

The speaker of these words was the talented and tragic Rupert Brooke, who, during World War I, wrote ”The Soldier” (If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.) and Granchester (oh! yet stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?)

I visited Samoa this year; it is everything and more that Rupert Brooke said. The islands are still mostly unspoilt, there are smiles and happiness everywhere. It is just like Paradise would be.

Samoa, saturates your senses and soothes your soul.

We travelled around and stayed at different types of places, all local of course.  I’m very much a responsible traveller and like to get close to the local cultures and people whenever possible. So the places we stayed at were all locally owned, the shops we bought from were all local and the places we ate were all local.  That way you know it is benefiting both you and your hosts; you because you learn and experience so much and your hosts because the money exchanged stays local.

IMG_1187I’m not sure whether it was at the airport or when we arrived at The Orator that I knew I’d fallen in love with Samoa. So much beauty, so much care and so many smiles. And . . . pineapples growing in the garden!  And the food, oh dear, all ideas of being good and counting calories went out of the window – delicious!

IMG_1213We marvelled at the beauty all around us and the flowers, so absolutely splendid. We took the bus into Apia town and went out for long walks. I ‘m not exaggerating when I quote Louis Armstrong;

Yes, I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

Our next stop was at the ferry to the island of Savai’i.  We stayed at La Legoto, which was glorious. Our beach front fale was not made from wood and straw but it was definitely built by locals.  The views were to die for and the sky was blue ~ deep sigh of contentment.

IMG_1229

DSC01667IMG_1249I could sit and just look out to sea for hours, so serene, so good for the soul. As with elsewhere, the people were so friendly and so lovely and genuine; the place was, well you can see for yourself, soooooooo easy on the eyes, so stunning; and the food was delicious. The plants and flowers were a joy to behold.  There are tons more IMG_1247superlatives and adjectives I could use, but the word Paradise keeps popping back in my mind.

To be continued . . . .

World Travel Market 2012 #wtm2012

Me with two gorgeous girls I find inspiring, Anna Pollock and Zoe Dawes

World Travel Market has come and gone again. It’s not just a four-day event, it is so much more. I’m always like a child in a sweetie shop when I go – so much to see, so much to do and so many wonderful people there. There is no way I am going to be able to mention all those I met and reconnected with.

The intensity of the four days leaves you slightly bemused and not just a little tired on the Friday! The schedule of workshops and seminars is a joy, the only challenge you face is which ones you can get to! Always open and highly informative, always accommodating to the audience.

Me, Michela Fantinel, Valy Dumoulin, Sue Hillman & Zoe Dawes beneath a very green young man famous for incontinence in Belgium ;-)

On the delightful Hungary stand

I am told the length of the Excel is nearly half a mile. That’s a whole lot of walking we get through in four days!  Not that it makes that much difference to the figure when you can taste all the exotic foods of the world there – I have to walk around with purpose in my stride, no lingering where there are tasty titbits to be sampled. Well, not often anyway, although I did succumb to the offerings of Hungary; mainly because the young girl acting as an ambassador for her country was so absolutely lovely, professional and helpful, that I couldn’t resist!  In fact, she was one of the best ambassadors for a country, I’ve ever met at WTM.  So much so, that both Zoe Dawes and I cannot wait to visit Hungary now!

This is a perfect example of why the PR in ThatsPR signifies Personal Relationships and not the normal Public Relations.  You can spend thousands and thousands of pounds on marketing your brand but if you do not have ambassadors who proudly and enthusiastically represent you, if will not count for much.

It’s people who matter, people who make a difference, people who build relationships.

View from balcony

View from South Quays DLR station, looking opposite way

I spent the week of WTM sharing an apartment with the endearing and zestful, Zoe Dawes (aka @quirkytraveller). The apartment was courtesy of City Base Apartments and Central London Apartments and it was a treat to come back to at the end of a long and tiring day.  Situated near the DLR, it was good for access to anywhere you wanted. It’s a great alternative to a hotel, as you have your own bedrooms but share the sitting room and kitchen & dining area. So each evening, after we’d eaten, we checked what we needed to on-line and then flopped onto the settees for a good old natter.

I’ll carry on with another post as soon as ……..

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!

Why the jewels in our crown will become poisoned chalices

I recently published two posts about our wonderful coastal areas – they are magnificent, and magnets to visitors and tourists. As summer is here (well, in theory anyway!), and people are being encouraged not to go abroad for their holidays, our coasts are getting busier and busier.  Visit Britain, quite rightly, spent the not inconsiderable amount of £3 million pounds on a marketing campaign to encourage us all to holiday at home.  A successful campaign it was and is; well, if you ignore the fact that both our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are taking holidays abroad. Shame on them, but then, our MPs do not always lead by example – don’t do as I do, do as I say!

What should be good news for the travel and tourism industry will turn into a disaster. It is only a matter of time. We are an island nation, we are a proud nation.  Unfortunately the government doesn’t seem to have the same values of respect, integrity and gratitude as do most of the population of the UK.

When the Transport Minister, Mike Penning, announced the closure of eight of the Coastguard Communication Stations protecting us, there had been no independent risk assessments carried out.  There were no in-depth consultations, to the extent that both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have called for risk assessments before implementation. No respect for the professional front-line guys and girls in the coastguard service.  Above all, no consideration for the trawlers, yachts, climbers, bathers, surfers, walkers, locals or tourists, who will be put in danger if these plans go through. It is not that there will be regional centres – the like of which, Mike Penning fought against for the fire service. There will be one national call centre in Fareham (Penning’s Folly) and all emergency calls to the Coastguard will be directed there ~ so where will the local knowledge be?  How will the visitor from abroad, walking along the cliffs of Scotland, be able to say where he is (should an incident occur) to someone the opposite end of the United Kingdom? It’s like the blind leading the blind – absolutely without common sense or reason.

I love my country, that will never be in question, but working in the travel and tourism industry and seeing such a crazy, ill thought-out plan makes me want to cry. And all for the sake of saving a small amount of money, which will probably be spent ten-fold in getting an empty shell of a building up to the standard it needs to be.

Norfolk is where I spent my holidays as a child, stunning countryside and seaside places.  But the Coastguard Station at Yarmouth is one of those being closed down, and the MP, Brandon Lewis (Conservative), has voted for the closure plan!  Why would he do that when there are so many miles of coastline in his constituency? I doubt his constituents realise he thinks it’s okay for Norfolk to lose its Coastguard Station!

There are far more MPs voting against the plans in a survey the CoastguardSOS team carried out; well, from those who deigned to reply anyway.  There are 189 MPs with responsibility for coastal areas and only 14 have voted for the plans, whereas 89 MPs are against the plans. Of the remaining coastal MPs, 13 have ignored the requests and 73 haven’t bothered to answer. Have a look and see what your MP said.

This government is not listening to the  people of the United Kingdom.This government is arrogant and without integrity on how it has handled these Coastguard Station closures.  The Transport Select Committee is now looking into the whole matter again and has invited written new evidence to be submitted on the changes to the Coastguard Service.  I hope to goodness this all-party group will be able to halt plans that will result in fatalities, of that there can be no doubt.

Our travel and tourism industry, both domestic and inbound, would suffer greatly should deaths occur. I am somewhat surprised that the commercial arm of the industry has not spoken out about this.  The tourist boards and town councils all report back (ultimately) to the government …….  I should imagine, if they are aware that the Coastguard personnel had gagging orders put on them, they would not want to rock any boats, so as to speak!

First they want to sell off our forests, our heritage; now they want to take away our safety at sea and by the coast.  What next?