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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Golden arches

It is only a week to go to the McDonalds charity shield, featuring politicians from all around the UK. Included in the package of hard-fought football games is the opportunity for the said politicians to stay at the Hilton in Cardiff, courtesy of the fast food chain, including a drinks reception and the 2006 Parliamentary Shield Dinner. On the Sunday they will be whisked off to the Millennium Stadium for a drinks reception, lunch, entertainment, a chance to watch the real Charity Shield and then post-match hospitality. Anybody wishing to cheer on the Assembly Members who are participating in this event should show up at the Leckwith Stadium at 13.30 on Saturday 12th August.

None of this has anything to do of course with the rather bizarre story in today's Western Mail, which records that the McDonald's restaurant in Carmarthen has been given 'brown sign status.' This is a brown and white directional sign usually reserved for tourist destinations such as visitor centres, theme parks, historic buildings and natural attractions. Other 'brown signed' tourist facilities can include hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs, public houses, restaurants and holiday parks. In Carmarthen however, the distinctive golden arches of their local McDonald's restaurant has qualified and is signposted accordingly.

Julian Burrell, director of the Wales Tourism Alliance, said, "I'm sure there are lots of smaller attractions that have problems getting the brown signs that wouldn't agree with McDonald's getting one.

"We've had complaints before from people because they feel they deserve signs.

"The criteria can be pretty open to interpretation.

"It's a constant cause of discussion within the tourism industry.

"There are some small tourism organisations that find it difficult who wish they had one.

"It's a problem in that you have to be able to prove you have a certain number of people visiting.

"It's a catch-22 because you might not be able to get that number without one of the signs.

And making reference to the huge luminous golden arches displayed outside most McDonald's, he added, "One would have thought it is quite difficult to miss a McDonald's, and you could say that they could probably be found easily enough without the sign."

However he said the burger restaurant's contribution to tourism should not be disregarded.

We should not disregard their contribution to football either. Not too sure how they fare in the culinary stakes.
However he said the burger restaurant's contribution to tourism should not be disregarded.

What kind of tourism is this exactly? People visit Wales to eat burgers?
I found your blog searching for some kind of Brown Sign Strategy for Swansea. Of course, ther has been a report (by L&R in 2004) but no published strategy of which I am aware.

As chair of Tourisn Swansea I became fed up with the Council's Tourism Marketing Department saying that no new Brown Signs could go up until the strategy had been approved (that is, unless they are for the LC, National Waterfront Museum etc).

Why am I concerned - because I believe passionately that Swansea is just not promoting tourism as it should be and my own particular interest to see success of Dylan Thomas and 5 Cwmdonkin Drive.

Now you might of heard of Dylan - he was after all the most famous poet of the 20th century. But where is he celebrated in the city where he lived for over half his life and wrote over 2/3rds of his published work? Other than in a building which is part call centre and part a decaying, badly maintained building called the DT Centre you are best heading wet to the Dylan Marketing Centres of Laugharne (4 years living max), Newquay (4 months) and Lampeter (2 days).

Not a sign on the M4 nor on the approaches to Swansea to announce the city's most famous son(as there would be in Stratford, Burns Country, Wordsworth Country). Come to your back yard and not a sign proclaiming The Uplands as the Birthplace of Dylan Thomas.

So, small wonder that the lumbering departments of the council turned down our application for Brown Signs to 5 Cwmdonkin Drive

without a site meeting (fair play, three years ago the Highways man in charge of signs did arrange to meet us but couldn't find the house!)

without aletter or explanation

without a copy of the strategy

without a copy of teh appeals procedure

without the courtesy of a reply to a letter of complaint to the Chief Executive.

Small wonder then that Swansea is losing out as a tourism destination (if you don't believe me talk to the people who know - Terry Stevens and tourism operators - not the Tourism Marketing Dept who are only interested in job preservation) - it is in danger of being in terminal decline.

If you can, therefore, help us make Swansea Dylan Thomas' City and help bring back the visitors.

I'm happy to talk but only if it can bring results.
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