Irish rugby fans travelling to Wales for this weekend’s Six Nations rugby international are amongst some of the visitors to the region who will receive a Grand Slam welcome thanks to an EU-funded project.
The £1 million Celtic Wave project was set up to increase the number of cruise ship visits to Welsh and Irish ports and to improve the level of hospitality skills locally. Visiting fans, as well as other tourists, will benefit from a warm Welsh welcome thanks to the scheme.
Part funded by the European Union’s Ireland/Wales Cross Border Interreg 4A Programme, the project has been successful in raising the profile of Holyhead, Milford Haven and Swansea as cruise destinations, along with three Irish ports.
Training has been provided to front-line hospitality workers such as taxi drivers with over 100 being trained to act as local guides as part of a Taxi Ambassador scheme across the six ports. Training opportunities have also been available to those wanting to become tour guides, enabling them to offer an enhanced shore side service to visitors.
Dylan Williams, head of service at Anglesey Council, the lead partner in both development and delivery of the project, said:
“Celtic Wave has significantly raised the profile of the cruise industry in Wales. By collaborating with Ireland, we have given ourselves an opportunity to increase the overall number of cruise ships docking in Welsh ports, enhancing the overall economic benefits.
“Training has focused on the front line individuals such as taxi drivers who chaperone independent cruise travellers to attractions and locations around the ports. This is having a wider impact on other visitors and tourists who also benefit from an improved service. “
Local people have also been given the opportunity to find employment in the cruise industry thanks to a training and recruitment drive backed by the project.
Celtic Wave manager Sue Thomas said: “A recruitment process in partnership with Viking Recruitment was put in place and enabled 35 people to gain employment in the cruise industry with Seabourne Cruise Lines, where they will be trained to a 5-star standard.
“The educational model has been set up by Coleg Menai who are now offering a 10 week service skills/hospitality course, which will be followed in Pembroke and Swansea colleges next September. At the end of this course students are guaranteed an interview for a job on board a 5-star cruise ship.”
Deputy Minister for European Programmes, Alun Davies, said: “It is vital that we maximise the potential of our ports as demand grows in the cruising market. Investing in skills to support this growth will enhance the visitor experience and help attract more visitors which, in turn, will benefit local businesses and economies on both sides of the Irish Sea. This is another example of how EU funding is making a difference to our region and people in our communities.”
Celtic Wave is a partnership between led by Anglesey County Council, along with the City and County of Swansea, Milford Haven Port Authority, Dublin Port Authority, Port of Waterford Company and Port of Cork Company.
The Ireland Wales Cross Border programme is led by the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly (SERA) in Ireland in partnership with the Welsh Government. The programme is supporting a total of 41 projects, backed with over £22m from the European Regional Development Fund, to develop collaborative activities to boost economic growth and skills, as well as protect the environment, on both sides of the Irish Sea.