THE BLOG

Rural Referrals Are Vital - Going the Extra Mile... Literally!

25/02/2013 11:53 GMT | Updated 24/04/2013 10:12 BST

Having worked in the outdoor industry for a number of years I saw an opportunity to develop an enterprise focusing on one activity, breaking away from the industry standard multi activity 'jack of all trades'. Celtic Quest Coasteering was born back in 2008, its mission....to make Coasteering available to virtually everyone, not just adrenaline junkies. Whilst it can be an extreme sport, we tailor every adventure to suit the expectations and abilities of each adventurer, which includes children, non-swimmers, disabled clients and OAPs. Since launch five years ago our company has evolved from being a company offering thrilling outdoor experiences, to one that has a responsibility to the community around it.

From our customer feedback we know that many tourists come to Pembrokeshire to escape the rat race. Owing to the slow pace of life, visitors have little choice but to switch off and kick back. That said, there are plenty of tech savvy establishments, cafes, bars and accommodation providers offering high speed internet access for those who need it.

As an activity operator in Pembrokeshire we are members of the tourism community. Most successful organisations in the county have a strong sense of place proactively referring visitors and clients to each other. Visitors that book Coasteering with ourselves will often ask for recommendations of where to stay, where to eat and things to do in the area. We have developed valuable relationships with a variety of organisations in the area. We often visit referral partners to assess their quality and to strengthen the relationship.

Pembrokeshire is competing with many other destinations. If visitors book Coasteering with us, they invariably book local accommodation and spend further time and money in the county. We are not just a Coasteering specialist; we always go the extra mile when dealing with enquiries. This can include all sorts from directions to other organisations, dog sitting services, local garage breakdown assistance to restaurant menus and local nightlife.

I run a seasonal instructor training programme, taking on local people, many of which have no experience in the outdoor industry. Having worked a season or two for me, they go off to work for other organisations worldwide. Employing local staff is not only important for my brand as their local knowledge is invaluable, but it also boosts the local economy. Pembrokeshire people as a whole are very warm and welcoming. I actively seek out individuals with the Pembrokeshire spark. My Coasteering guides need to have strong people skills, able to make a connection and gain a client's trust from first contact. My biggest asset is my staff. The Celtic Quest brand is constantly growing and can only be enhanced by the quirky personalities of my guides.

The current economic climate is tough. I believe that companies operating within rural areas - and even in cities - have a responsibility to support their local community. I have recently been recognised for my achievements by winning the Hestia award at the national 2012 NatWest everywoman awards for running a business in a remote rural location and making a contribution to the local community. I hope this raises awareness of the value of countryside businesses. According to DEFRA, there are more businesses per 10,000 population in the most rural areas than in the most urban areas, so it is essential that these enterprises are encouraged to work together in order to succeed.

Going into 2013, we will be working closely with fellow tourism sector companies on joint marketing ventures. Plans are afoot to make Pembrokeshire the place to be!