It seems most of us have listened to the rather harsh ‘father of the nation’ style advice from our Prime Minister, Mark Drakeford, and have spent this summer at home (closer to France than most of us). between us have).
Speaking with other parents at school this week, it’s fair to say that the majority have been content with the correct definition of ‘stay’ – that is, staying in our own homes, gardens or gardens. backyards (if we’re lucky enough to have one). The lucky ones spent their holidays in Wales or one of the other UK countries.
This was our second summer framed by Covid with little chance of seeing foreign shores for some time to come. Yet at least we had a little more freedom to move around and socialize.
We were fortunate enough to have purchased a trailer near Amroth during the lockdown (timing was fortuitous, not smart planning, honestly). Needless to say, we were incredibly lucky that we were able to pack the car and head to a beautiful part of Wales without inflated accommodation supplements and the joy of endless flexibility (and a sea view).
I have always loved a holiday in Wales but as the last 18 months have largely removed the element of choice in our holiday plans, it made me think about continuing a holiday at home or at the race to return. the airport next summer.
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Holidays, like everything else, are about contrast and juxtaposition.
As John Steinbeck said: “What good is the heat of summer, without the cold of winter to make it soft?”
It reminded me of my own childhood summer vacation. From the end of school we were happily packed to Grandma and Grandpa in Maesteg as my parents prepared to juggle work and kids for six long weeks.
My memories are almost all happy and satisfied – freezing dips in the Feeder (part of the Llynfi River) at Cwmfelin with its deep and cold ponds, often with kids who haven’t gone to the same schools as us (always a bonus ), to drag my gramps to the swings of Maesteg Celtic to climb on the huge steamroller.
Memories and senses are inextricably linked, and when I think of those summers, I can almost smell the cut grass and taste the Fab Lollipops and Chocolate-dusted Tip Tops. I also clearly remember the frustration when the light went out, making it impossible to see the ball in our mass street football matches. Appropriate tips for jumpers for the goal posts.
The past 18 months have offered some precious happy moments, but my memories of summer 2021 will be framed by the beaches and the sea, not always in the sun – so what? We paddled in the rain in beautiful Saundersfoot Bay, took a seal safari on Caldey Island in the rough seas of August and visited the impressive new water sports base at Dwr Cymru at lake Llys-y-Fran under the gray drizzle. We have been to all the zoos, safaris and theme parks that Pembrokeshire has to offer – and they all were too.
The kids loved the ‘horrible story’ tours of the Pembrokeshire castles at Carew, Manorbier and Pembroke, but if I’m being honest they probably enjoyed riding the grassy sides of the moat as much as the history lesson, everything. like when we as the kids climbed the walls of Ogmore Castle like a gigantic antique climbing frame while my dad had a pint in the nearby Pelican pub.
We Google searched for pubs with great beer and food, but just as importantly, beer gardens and playgrounds to keep the kids entertained while we had a quiet pint – we also found there rich pickings. Speaking of which, we picked lots of blackberries on the coastal path from which we made popsicles and ice cream toppings.
The girls even had time to learn new skills – practicing swimming in the pool, learning tennis, kite flying and learning wonderful new Welsh words like Bilidowcar and Ffwlbart. Even back home, as a family, we did more things with more variety, most of it outdoors.
The kids loved the great holiday programs from Urdd and Menter Caerdydd like Bwrlwm, play programs and sports camps. There were also rugby and taekwondo camps, wading pools and popular auntie outings.
But there’s a reason many of us normally leave these shores for vacations. Tourism is not just about lying on a beach or sipping cocktails in Corfu. It’s also about broadening the horizon, exploring, educating and adventuring – it’s about new and different, stepping out of your comfort zone, chasing the unknown.
As JR Rim said: “The tourist takes his culture with him. The traveler leaves behind.
There is no doubt about the importance of difference and “otherness” as a stimulus and benefit of travel. Travel has also been a fruitful field for philosophers. Paul Fussell talks about the different levels of “otherness” and “ignorance” of travel. Mark Twain, in The Innocents Abroad, asserts that “the gentle reader will never, never know what an accomplished ass he can be until he goes abroad.” Punitive stuff, but probably true.
I listened to a podcast on the history of tourism and travel and was struck by a comment that all tourists think they are better than their fellow travelers when they are abroad. Leaving aside the old brown of the English abroad, it is surely a question of attitude or openness.
For the record, it certainly feels like there has been a substantial increase in the number of visitors from other UK countries to Pembrokeshire this year, but also Welsh people exploring our beautiful nation further. I’m no expert, but it’s pretty clear that Welsh tourism has received a much-appreciated boost from this summer’s Covid travel tips for staying at home.
It is equally evident that the tour operators have struggled to cope. Many pubs and restaurants have been forced to close their doors due to staff shortages and self-isolation demands. Also, if I’m being honest, this past weekend a lot of staff in the entertainment industry looked tired and exhausted.
Not everyone is happy either. Nation.Cymru recently reported concerns that ‘over-tourism’ threatens to turn Wales into ‘playgrounds and retreat areas’. The Cylch an Iaith lobby group warned that the huge increase in the number of tourists came as a “shock” as there was no “adequate provision for them”. Almost 10% of the workforce in Wales is now employed in tourism. There is obvious room for growth, but it is clear that it has to be the right growth.
I was lazily browsing the Welsh Government’s strategy Welcome to Wales: Priorities for the Visitor Economy 2020-2025, which says: “In order to grow sustainably, we need to address three key challenges over the next five years: seasonality, spending, broadcast. ”
It comes down to better tourism all year round, higher spending and benefit sharing. A condition for this must be to pay appropriate salaries to those working in the industry and to employ them longer than the summer season, alongside a renewed emphasis on green and sustainable tourism using adventure, sport, nature, culture and food as the foundation.
Of course, there are problems in completing this. The Prime Minister has already said he would explore a tourist tax, but it goes much further than that. Holidaying in Wales provides real-time political insight.
For me, it was again about exhibiting the elephant in the room – the second home business. The Welsh government is talking about its new approach to this massive problem – it is planning a pilot project to test a three-pronged strategy based on regulatory frameworks, tax measures and stock availability.
Speaking with the people of Pembrokeshire, I have no doubt that this is indeed a crisis. Yes, Wales is the only country in the UK to allow local councils to introduce a 100% municipal tax premium on second homes, but with around half of all properties in Gwynedd now being sold as second homes , we need to do more urgently in a radical and structural way. Otherwise, we face a demographic, linguistic and community catastrophe. It is a matter of basic human rights, after all, a right for communities to survive and our language to exist.
This brings me to one of Wales’ currently untapped strengths, our bilingualism. Let us return to the value of the contrast. Holidays are about different places, cultures and heritage. Our language is a key element in all three and it seems to me that Welsh is still underused in the marketing strategies of large parts of the tourism industry.
By the time you read this most of us will be back to work and school and the freshmen are arriving for what we all hope will be a much more social year in college. I’ll be back from Geneva after the UEFA Convention on the Future of Football, it’s only the second time I’ve been abroad in 19 months, both times on business.
This year’s summer vacation may have been weird – less physically rejuvenating, but, for me at least, it was definitely mentally revitalizing. I missed sipping an icy Mythos under an amazingly blue Greek sky after a dip in the sea.
Sure, uninterrupted and guaranteed sunshine will always be a winner, but that’s not all a vacation is. I didn’t miss the stress and anxiety of baggage screening at crowded airports or red-eyed charter flights with a cranky, over-tired toddler and seven-year-old.
As we sewed name tags onto her new school uniform, I asked our oldest daughter, Annie, if she had enjoyed her summer vacation. She said it was the best ever. Now I know kids are known for their superlatives and for living in the present, but I can safely say ours really had a blast in this weird, residual Covid summer.
It’s different, of course, but that’s the point of the vacation. I know we’re lucky as a family, but we’ve done more, more variety, often cheaper or free, in different places and with different people – and all in Wales.
Do you agree with Laura? So let us know in the comments