Swansea Bay Tourism Awards – Best Activity
We consider that to have delivered consistently for nearly 20 years to this number of people ,whilst maintaining quality, customer service, providing a world class visitor experience through ingenuity and innovation then our canyoning activity should be considered as one of the best activity experiences in Swansea Bay.
Extract From Our June Press Release
Call of the Wild Ltd Celebrate 50,000th Canyoning Customer
Adventure Britain, the adventure activity brand of Call of the Wild Ltd, outdoor activity provider and team development Company based in Neath celebrated the visit of their 50,000th canyoning customer on the 3rd June 2017.
“After nearly 20 years in operation I didn’t think that we’d have this many people enjoying the fantastic Welsh countryside. It is the countryside combined with the spectacular activity and our hospitable staff that mean people refer us on to friends, work colleagues and family. They have an unforgettable experience which they tell everyone else about. We are blessed with having one of the best canyoning venues in the UK” explained Geraint Lewis, Managing Director.
Canyoning with us is best described as white water rafting but without the raft. Groups are escorted down a deep river gorge with our qualified guides. They do this by various means including walking behind waterfalls, jumping off waterfalls and tobogganing down rapids on your backside.
Geraint Lewis went on to say that “ we keep a running total of the numbers we have doing the canyoning each year and although we can’t single out who the 50,000th individual will be given we have 50 people doing the activity that day we know it will be the 3rd June 2017 we’ll break through the figure.”
The Company was set up in 1998 by old school friends from Neath, who gave up their professional careers and returned to their home town to pursue their dream of owning and running a training and adventure activity business with a difference. They are committed to ensuring that clients are introduced to the wonderful local environment with a view to enhancing their learning, appreciation and enjoyment of the unique countryside within Welsh countryside.
Definition of ‘Best’
It is difficult to define ‘best’ as there are a number of ways of doing this particularly if you put yourself forward as such as this doesn’t necessarily give an objective view.
Therefore we feel one of the best ways is to leave the assessment to others and to illustrate what they have consistently said about the quality of their visitor experience whilst taking part in our canyoning activity.
Notwithstanding the importance of the quality of the visitor experience and their feedback other factors we feel need to also be taken into consideration. These are:-
• Customer Care and Staffing
• The economic contribution made to the locality;
• The impact on the environment and green credentials ensuring activities are done in a sustainable way
• Leading the way in introducing good and best practice so activities are safe
• Commitment to and be ambassadors for Swansea Bay
1.Best Activities in the World Say Customers and Industry Experts
How many Swansea Bay attractions or activities can actually say they offer one of the best experiences in the world?
Unlike attractions who appeal to a certain visitor audience who may already be resident in a locality or visiting as holiday makers with the canyoning activity we have to compete on the world stage given the multitude of alternative canyoning regions that exist across the UK, Europe and the rest of the World. Therefore we have to show ingenuity and marketing innovation to ensure we can compete on that world stage. Hopefully it’s been demonstrated that we’ve had a degree of success in doing this given the number of visitors we’ve managed to attract consistently over a 20 year period.
You can also see how well we compete on that wider stage by reading the comments below.
(i) Our Canyoning Activity One of the Best in the World Says Rough Guides!
Our Canyoning activity in Wales is up there as one of the best wet and wild experiences in the world says Rough Guides. Following their visit, Rough Guides have placed our canyoning up there with the best in the world!
Rough Guides is a leading publisher of travel and reference information known for its ‘tell it like it is’ attitude, accurate, up-to-date content and informed contemporary writing. They have described the canyoning experience with us as “..being up there with the best wet and wild experiences in the world!”
(ii) Canyoning with Call of the Wild as Good as in New Zealand – It’s Official!
The Rough Guides opinion was reinforced this year by David Manley and family trying out our canyoning activity. He explained that he had heard of Call of the Wild whilst visiting New Zealand last summer. He explained:
“I recently returned from an adventure holiday in New Zealand where I went canyoning and caving and the guides over there asked me why I had come all the way to New Zealand to try canyoning when he could have done it with Call of the Wild in Wales. When back I booked a day canyoning with Call of the Wild as a joint birthday present for my father and brother. The scenery was every bit as good and the activity just as exciting (and wet!). In future I’ll contact Call of the Wild before choosing to fly to the other side of the world!”
(iii) Valleys Essential Top 50
Rough Guide Author Names Call of the Wild in Top 50 Welsh Valleys Essentials
The Valleys Heart and Soul campaign teamed up with Rough Guide author Mike Parker to create a list of the Top 50 Valleys Essentials, including must-see heritage attractions, unmissable eateries and events and scenic walks across The Valleys, which spans from Kidwelly in the west to Pontypool in the east. Call of the Wild’s Adventure Britain were proud to be included the Top 50 Welsh Valleys experiences!
Mike described us as follows
“….there are a few outdoor activity specialist companies out there, but these are one of the best. They offer climbing, caving, biking (mountain or quad), gorge walking, canyoning, kayaking and more, all locally. It just shows how blessed the Valleys are, for they are one of the finest natural places to let off a bit of steam.”
The 50 Valleys Essentials are not only essential things to see, do or taste, for Mike they are experiences that form the essence of the region. Mike, who lives in Powys, said: “Fifty was a good number of sights to pick, for it gave me chance to highlight all of the many aspects that make The Valleys such a rewarding place to visit.
“There’s physical activity of all sorts, be it walking, running, mountain biking, swimming, climbing or caving. Eating and drinking too, of course – it would be churlish to ignore the area’s many fine options, from home-made Italian ice-cream to prize-winning whisky.
Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, said:
“There is a wealth of wonderful attractions, activities and experiences that deserve to be celebrated in The Valleys and this campaign aims to bring a sense of pride to communities where they have a local Valleys Essential. And attractions, activities, our natural environment and heritage are key to attracting more tourism, with obvious benefits to the local economy.”
(iv) Feedback From Professional Sports Teams
One of our USP’s and what sets us apart is that we seek to control all aspects of the visit to ensure quality is maintained. This doesn’t just start with the group turning up for their visit. We see it as from their first point of contact with the website, through to making an enquiry right through to after they’ve returned home. By adopting this approach we ensure we have satisfied customers.
When making an enquiry the customer will get a prompt response given we have a permanent team of customer service staff. They don’t have to phone a mobile number and then wait for a lengthy period before getting any response. They also get a dedicated booking manager as one point of contact.
We also aim to look after our customers from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. We are unique as an activity provider in that we have bought our own accommodation so we can ensure quality of the customer service is maintained. We have a 38 bed cafe bar with accommodation and a 72 acre centre with bunkhouse sleeping 44.
Not only that but we also have our own vehicles and qualified drivers to transfer customers to and from their accommodation and the activity venue. Again this is something unique to us. As the majority of people who take part in the canyoning adults they tend come on weekends so we have a weekend co-ordinator on the ground all weekend. He will also meet each group individually on arrival at their accommodation to make sure our customers are happy with the arrangements and we’re on hand to go that extra mile using this personal touch. I’m not aware of any other organisation who does this.
Moving to the activity itself we employ our own full time instructors and ensure the comfort, enjoyment and safety of the visitor is always at the forefront of our thinking. To this end we are one of the only organisations to book indoor changing facilities for our visitors. Others allow their groups to change outside.
(i) Customer Care
The kit we provide is of the best quality. This includes wet suits and we are different to many others in that we provide 5mm winter standard wet suits to all customers no matter the weather. Others we know try to cut costs and provide thinner 3mm suits. In fact we were one of the first to organisations to provide wet suits to our customers and others have now copied us.
(ii) Health and Safety
Notwithstanding the above we also operate in a very professional manner placing significant emphasis on health and safety matters. The safety of the visitor is paramount. The skill which the team possess is that they put across the seriousness of safety issues without curtailing the fun of the visitors. It is obvious they have this balance right as they consistently get positive feedback and we are still trading after 20 years. As a result our safety record is second to none.
We are licensed with the Adventure Activities Licensing Service, part of the Health and Safety Executive. This means we have an annual inspection from an independent inspector who audits our risk assessments and operating procedures. At our last audit in January the Inspector commented that he booked our visit in early in January as he knows he won’t find anything out of place and he can then move to other more problematic providers. He stated our systems are consistently some of the best he’s seen.
Even though the license is only required to deliver activities to children we apply the same standards to our provision to adults. Many other providers are not licensed or audited.
We run regular training sessions for our team and also undertake observation sessions to ensure ongoing competence of staff. I’m not aware of any other organisation doing this with their canyoning activity.
(iii) Recognised Experts
In the light of the above we are the recognised experts for canyoning. For instance we are the ‘go to’ company for filming and TV work where safety cover is required (and stunt doubles on occasion). BBC Casualty, a feature film called Abraham’s Point, Extreme Dreams with Ben Fogle, Gadget Show, BBC Countryfile are just a few who have used our services.
When advice is required we also ironically get requests from other providers who deliver canyoning. Many of those who are now delivering canyoning were trained by us and have copied what we do given our reputation.
(iv) Customer Feedback
In terms of quality and quantity we get regular positive feedback from our customers. We can cherry-pick the best, as many others will do, and attach these in support. However given we trust in the quality of our provision we’ve taken the bold move of publishing all reviews and feedback on our website so they can be viewed in real time. This is done through an independent review site which we can’t influence.
I am not aware of anyone else doing this. This shows we have confidence in the quality of our provision as it does run the risk of getting negative comments which we cannot change. Therefore this gives a more accurate picture of the consistent quality of experience delivered rather than a heavily censored view giving a false impression.
There are 37 reviews for the year on this site so far.
Here is the link to the relevant page on the website. Click here
We have too many examples to list here but we’ve just picked a sample of recent examples. More can be supplied if required:-
Thank you so much for the weekend. The guys all had a brilliant time and really enjoyed it. The stag text me earlier saying he was buzzing and blown away from the weekend! Can you please make sure big thank you goes to all of your team especially Mike and the people at Merlins. All such lovely people and an absolute credit to your company.
Thanks again for having us and helping put on a great weekend
And another from this Summer
While its fresh in my mind and before i get swamped back into the norms of work, i just wanted to say a huge thanks for organising a fantastic weekend, it all worked perfectly for our boys. The canyoning instructors Rowan and Becks were fantastic- I’m a windsurfer who’s also done a bit of white water canoeing etc so I’ve been around a few coaches and instructors. I’m still not sure how they talked our stag into jumping of a 25ft waterfall! considering he has a fear of heights and being trapped under water!!!! but they did it.
Water levels were really high, super powerful, and our guys got stuck into everything put in front of us, it really was a blast.
Also thanks to Colin in the bar, the cooks and drivers, everyone was really accommodating and we all enjoyed a good chat with them. We will definately be passing on our recommendations to friends
Many thanks and have a good week
More from the Summer
I wanted to send you an email to pass on my sincere thanks for such a wonderful weekend.
From the moment we arrived at the accommodation we had a lovely welcome warm welcome from the staff at the B&B who were quick to make us all feel very at home and give advice on the surrounding area. We ate there both nights and the food was exceptional not one person in our party could fault it.
With regards to the organisation of the activities of the weekend it ran perfectly like clockwork and a credit to your company for this, when organising a weekend away with so many things to do and get everyone ready etc I had the feeling something would have gone wrong but it didn’t.
All of the people we met who took us on the activities were friendly, funny and absolutely charming. Rowan and James at canyoning were so knowledgeable and encouraging to everyone it’s so lovely to see that kind of passion.
I would like to make a special mention to Ben who was with the group when we did the canyoning. One of our party, Georgina is visually impaired. I’ve known her for 20 years and it’s not something that ever crosses my mind and so stupidly I didn’t put it on the form but after speaking to James at Dinas rock I understand the situation he was in for her care and everyone else’s. After speaking with James he agreed Georgina could do the activity and thankfully Ben was there, he chaperoned Georgie the entire way through he was exceptional, kind, and without him Georgie would not have had the experience that I wanted her to have. He really is a credit and everyone in our group has mentioned him to me by name.
We have told everyone about this weekend, it was everything I wanted and thank you for making that happen.
We rate all our feedback and these are the figures from previous years.
In 2018 96.5% of our customers positively rated our services in terms of their overall experience and value for money.
We also operate to strict standards and have also been lucky enough to win a number of other awards over the years in recognition of our work. Here’s a summary – click here
3. Economic Impact
As stated above the majority of our visitors stay overnight. Our approach is to encourage all our customers to stay overnight as not only does it increase the spend per head and fill our beds spaces it also maximises the financial impact on the locality generally.Also on the majority of weekends we fill our own accommodation and regularly fill other accommodation venues in the locality. This obviously has a significant positive impact on the local economy. Notwithstanding additional visits to other attractions and places of interest in the locality it also benefits for instance the local newsagent selling newspapers through to the local garage selling petrol. We’ve had feedback from many local traders explaining that many of customers regularly visit.
We’ve calculated , based on an our average cost for a one night stay with the canyoning activity, we have generated approximately £5,250,000 in direct sales over the last 19 years. This doesn’t include the additional spend on other visits and sundries as mentioned above.
Our business philosophy is also very much underpinned by our commitment to the locality. We are born and bred in the communities within which we work. We haven’t moved to the area or just come to deliver activities and then leave at the end of each day. Our business philosophy, in setting up in a unfashionable non-tourist deprived former mining community back in 1998 was as much about creating stable employment and income-earning opportunities for the communities as much as building a sustainable business.
We think we’ve gone some way to achieving this by now employing 30 people full time and up to 60+ during peak season on a part time basis. The majority of these would be local to the area thereby ensuring the majority of the £5,250,000 is retained in the locality.
In delivering the canyoning activity and improve the quality of the visitor experience we also try and support local organisations and groups. For instance, as mentioned in the quality section above we are one of the only operators to book local facilities for our groups to change in. We book and pay for local village halls and use of Church halls to ensure the comfort of our customers and make a financial contribution towards the upkeep of community facilities which are struggling financially. We are one of the only organisations that do this.
Definition of Tourism
Tourism is defined as the activities of persons identified as visitors. A visitor is someone who is making a visit to a main destination outside his/her usual environment for less than a year for any main purpose [including] holidays, leisure and recreation, business, health, education or other purposes…
Visitor is the common denominator that covers all the forms of tourism defined above for the same range of purposes. The term embraces three separate categories.
(1) Tourists who are visitors staying away from home for one or more nights for any of the purposes noted above (domestic, or from abroad).
(2) Same Day visitors, also known as tourist day visitors spending at least 3 hours away from home outside their usual environment. Many are local residents of an area.
(3) Leisure day visitors spending less than 3 hours away from home but outside their usual environment, for general leisure, recreational or social purposes. Most of this third group of visitors are also residents of destinations and their local catchment areas.
Therefore if the type of visitor is important in assessing which activity or attraction is ’best’ then the proportion of those day visitors (domestic) compared to tourists (inbound) could be taken into account. With our customers approximately 98% would be tourists (inbound). Therefore these are of a higher value and make a significant economic contribution to the locality.
4. Sustainable Tourism
There are a large number of activity providers and attractions in the locality trading but how many are doing so in a sustainable manner and can point to how they make a positive contribution in this respect. Sustainability principles refer to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism , and how a suitable balance is established between these three dimensions to guarantee long-term sustainability.
Thus, sustainable tourism should:
- Make sensitive use of environmental resources, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity;
- Respect local communities.
Sustainable tourism should also maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to the tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices.
We were one of the founding members of the South Wales Outdoor Activity Providers Group (SWOAPG). The catalyst for it’s establishment was the increasing pressure being imposed on environmentally sensitive sites from multiple activity providers. There was growing concern on the part of landowners and environmental agencies about the worsening condition of these sites.
Activity providers had no representative body with whom these agencies could converse with. We have been one of the steering group members since inception who have driven this forward. This group has come up with a Concordat which all providers have to sign up to which contains parameters within which activity providers can use certain activity sites. Te content of this document ensures theses environmentally sensitive sites are protected from over use. In addition a code of conduct was created to ensure due care and consideration is shown to local communities and other users alike. We have been vigilant in complying with the Concordat and Code of Conduct in recognition of their importance. We continue to be a Committee member of SWOAPG.
Our staff actively explain about the environment when taking group on their canyoning activity. They try and educate them on on the sensitivities of the locality, its special features and also down to small things things like understanding the Countryside Code – leave nothing behind but your footprint take nothing away but photos and memories.
In the economic impact section above we have set out how we seek to respect local communities and make a positive contribution. To this end we have now set up our local charity which enable us to do significantly more in this respect. Our vision and mission very much encapsulate our commitment to the local community. Our vision is to be recognised as a centre of excellence for developing positive experiences in a creative, challenging and ethical environment, whilst being firmly embedded in the local community.
We just don’t want inbound visitors to the locality enjoying the activities on offer such as canyoning. We want local people to also have the opportunity. Therefore we put on free activity days for local schools and also free activity sessions for the local community in which much of the canyoning activity takes place.
In terms of of wider green credentials beyond just the canyoning activity we were lucky enough in 2012 Best Green Tourism Business by Tourism Swansea Bay.
Here are other examples of our green credentials:-
5. Ingenuity and Innovation
Hopefully it can be seen from the number of examples set out above that we have shown ingenuity and innovation over nearly 20 years in becoming a market leader delivering canyoning. From the marketing strategy we have had in place to generate this number of visits, putting in place measures above and beyond anyone else to ensure delivery of a quality product have all elevated us to being described by one of the World’s travel and tourism’s foremost travel guides as “..being up there with the best wet and wild experiences in the world!”
We were also one of the first tourism organisations in the locality to have a website and actively embrace the use of social media and e-marketing.
Some more recent examples include the innovative use of drones to prepare marketing videos and the use of video to stimulate interest in our services. Even things such as e-cards. sending birthday greetings using canyoning as the means of sending a video e-message to a loved one.
For our full list of canyoning videos click here
We have been active members of Tourism Swansea Bay, other Trade Associations and Regional Tourism Partnerships for many years. We see our role as very much acting as ambassadors for the locality and being a role model for others.
7. Health and Wellbeing
Canyoning is a very physically demanding activity. Our hope is that participants either continue with their fitness work after taking part in the activity or are motivated enough by the activity to become physically active after it.
In addition to the physical activity there is growing evidence that such water based activities and being outdoors in the ‘green gym’ is good for overall health and wellbeing both physical and mental.
New research has found that ‘blue space’ including sea, rivers, lakes and even urban water features can have a positive impact on wellbeing
While the health benefits of green space are now well known, thanks to the pioneering research of Roger Ulrich and the Kaplans more is becoming known of the “blue space” – the impact of the sea, rivers, lakes, and even urban water features on our health and wellbeing.
Teaming up with environmental psychologist Mat White, Depledge began by repeating one of Ulrich’s early studies. By showing photographs of a variety of landscapes to a group of participants, Ulrich was able to demonstrate that stress levels were lowered according to how much greenery was in the picture. The difference this time was that, “we started introducing water into the images”, says Depledge, “going from a pond right through to a coastline, with increasing amounts of water in the images, and we found that people showed a strong preference for more and more water in the images.