2023 will be the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of Wales Official Tourist Guides Association. The membership association was set up to be the guardian of global tourist guiding standards in Wales and to provide support and insurance for its member qualified guides, as well as a means of socialising and sharing ideas with other guides.
Many of you will have met your local qualified tourist guides. Most of our customers come from outside Wales in the form of overseas visitors, tour operators or cruise ship ground-handlers who book our services. Our Guides’ listings can be found here: Wotga Guides in Wales - Wotga Wales (walesbestguides.com) .
Specifically in Mid Wales we have long-standing Blue Badge guide Huw Davies, based in Llangeitho, Tregaron; Green Badge Guides include Mark Cole from Cardigan and Laura Thomas in the Brecon Beacons. Mid Wales Tours owner, Sean Westlake has made a great impact in the region since setting up with his unique motorcycle and sidecar tours. Any of the Blue Badge all-Wales Guides are qualified to guide in Mid Wales.
Training and Trading
In 2021 as a response to the total wipe out of guiding business during the pandemic and also to improve the commercialisation of WOTGA’s income potential, bringing benefit to Guides and capitalising on the wealth of skills and experiences amongst the WOTGA membership, we set up a social enterprise, Wales Best Guides Enterprises Limited. We call it WOTGA’s training and trading arm. Three WOTGA members are directors (innovator, Amanda Whitehead, finance expert Alison Hypher and myself, long-time project manager, Christine Evans). We have just begun to employ 5 part-time staff.
Our Services as Wales Best Guides Enterprises Ltd:
Delivering training courses across Wales and online from an Entry Level programme Get Into Guiding, for volunteers and those who want a taster course to support a community project; Level 1 (Single Site) and Level 2 (Walking Guide) for one of our formal “badge” qualifications - the White Badge; the Level 3 Green Badge regional course for guiding on a moving vehicle or reach the pinnacle with a Level 4 Blue Badge Dragon, all Wales course.
We are the only one of the four UK nations to have Guides recognised as official by their Government. The Welsh Government present the badges to those qualified. Our training is structured to meet European quality standards, which in turn match up with global standards. Our trainers are all qualified guides who have undertaken specialist train the trainer programmes.
With our wealth of expertise as qualified guides, all of whom have experience and achievements in other careers, we can deliver projects, outcomes, reports and action plans to support your work with the tourism sector. We don’t just talk about our visitors, we talk to them on a daily basis, bringing authenticity to your work. The WOTGA members are our consultants. They provide an expert pool of individuals to call upon according to the demands of a consultancy, e.g. local and regional; subject specialisms and cross-cutting theme experience. We also engage experts in other fields as required to complement our own skills and enable us to meet requirements.
One of our commissions has been working with Cynnal y Cardi and friends in Llandysul over the last year or so, to look at “Guided Cultural Adventures” aiming to attract visitors from the coast to the country.
Wales Best Guides Enterprises Limited does not primarily offer Guided Tours. We are there to drive business to the 60 plus members of WOTGA who work as freelancers, either occasionally when cruise ships are visiting, or increasingly as full-time Tourist Guides with tour products available on online or by booking direct. Guides work business to business or increasingly, using technology as business to consumer, for the free, independent traveller (FIT) and local visitor markets.
What makes a great Guide?
Here are some essential qualities:
Resourceful, knowledgeable, caring, patient, have great stamina, be a good listener as well as a talker, be confident to speak to groups, be interested in Wales and its stories, have tact, know what to talk about and what not to! Be safety and security conscious, be able to work as a team and work well with others, particularly with your coach driver. Know when to stand back and let the expert in a venue or attraction take over - but make sure you stay on time! Be always well-presented and smile! Be able to work to our practical quality standards, be a good problem solver and be ready for anything. Each day brings its own surprises!
Completing formal guide training is no small undertaking, both in time and investment, but the rewards are there for you, when you put in time and effort in establishing yourself once qualified. What better way to earn a living than telling the fabulous stories of Wales to an interested audience of guests from both far and near.
There are two areas within Tourist Guiding where we need more supply: Linguists and Driver Guides. During the pandemic, we ran two online courses for linguist guides qualified in other areas and used by “other language” tour operators, so that these guides could provide a much better interpretation of Wales to their guests. This group focused on the Italian, Spanish and Russian-speaking guests. We still need more German speaking members, in particular for any languages spoken by the countries targeted by Visit Wales Welsh Government in their tourism marketing.
Driver Guiding is increasingly popular. As a driver guide, you have a Local Authority plated vehicle which provides complete flexibility for your guests and an ability to reach places other larger groups may not be able to. Demand is out there.
What next for Tourist Guiding in Wales?
Ultimately, the overseas market remains our core business. There is growth in cruise ship visits which we respond to, although it is recognised as difficult for these guests to reach the heart of Mid Wales in their time allowed.
Our priorities for the next couple of years are to improve our profile within communities in Wales, to improve and increase our digital marketing and to increase the diversity of our membership.
Of particular importance in helping us to do this is ”Get Into Guiding,” an Entry Level Community based programme of training. This course is just four days long and involves lots of practical work in your community, suitable for volunteers who undertake walking festivals or wellbeing walks locally or maybe you have a local heritage project and want to have a vehicle to present your information beyond an exhibition or online content.
If you would like to hear more about this to complement your community project, do get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org.We have small pot of funding to part-match yours during 2023, so do get in touch.
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