Being an Ambassador
I am proud to have become one of the first volunteer ambassadors for Bridgend County. Where’s that and what’s it all about?
The county covers 110 square miles, lying at the geographical heart of south Wales, roughly equidistant between Swansea and Cardiff.
It’s a diverse area stretching from the upland, rugged former coal mining valleys in the north down to the undulating countryside and attractive coast in the south. The county is an area of contrasts, rather than a single coherent destination.
So why does it need ambassadors?
There are numerous places of interest and untouched natural beauty on our doorsteps, but they are taken for granted by many of us. The idea underpinning the ambassador scheme is to create a small community of like-minded individuals who can harness local knowledge and channel their enthusiasm to make more people aware of what Bridgend County offers its 140,000 residents and the 4 million visitors who come each year.
Ambassadors do this through writing; using social media; promoting and attending events; meeting visitor groups; offering detailed local advice, and generally getting the message out there about things that are special and unique about the area.
Whilst laudable in itself, fluffiness is not the sole purpose of the scheme: it also has a sound economic core. More visitors mean money for the local economy: promoting the county as a visitor destination encourages people to exit the M4 and stay, spend and hopefully invest locally.
Make no mistake: tourism is an important contributor to local prosperity and quality of life in Bridgend County. Over 4,000 local jobs and £268m of much needed revenue depend upon a thriving visitor economy.
So the ambassador programme is all about destination management – the process of coordinating all aspects of a destination that contribute to visitor experience, taking account of the needs of visitors, local residents, businesses and the environment.
It embraces the idea of sustainability, focusing on tourism which brings economic benefit, is sensitive to the environment, is welcomed by the community, and results in satisfied visitors.
Delivering a quality experience to the visitor is a priority – and that’s where ambassadors come in.
The professionally devised and expertly led ambassador training programme has covered knowledge about the history, folklore, heritage, culture as well as the natural delights of Bridgend County. Speaking, listening, and customer service skills have also been included.
The mission is to improve the quality of visitor experience to residents and travellers alike, and of course to grow the numbers of each cohort who sample what the county has to offer.
I don’t have an ambassadorial limo with diplomatic plates. But I am looking forward to making a contribution to my community in what promises to be an interesting and worthwhile role.