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JANET STREET-PORTER: Trying to rebrand gloomy Wales as a welcoming paradise is as pointless

MPs have been asked to come up with cash to ‘rebrand’ Wales so it can be more attractive to tourists.

Wales has an image problem, according to executives in the hospitality business.

Any mention of the country is said to conjure up negative images of ‘sheep, wet weather and rugby’.

Wales is ‘underselling itself’ compared to rival destinations like Scotland and Ireland. To transform it into an appealing holiday destination, their suggestions include more emphasis on the Welsh language.

At the risk of sounding racist (I am half Welsh), re-branding the place as a jolly land welcoming visitors with open arms is a nigh-impossible task that piles of cash won’t change.

Boris Johnson

There are two men in Britain today whose reputations lie in tatters, and who must be prime targets for the rebranding bandits – Prince Andrew (left) and Boris Johnson (right)

Wales is wet. It is gloomy. The people born in North Wales (like my late mother and her family) don’t consider anyone born south of Caernarvon to be truly Welsh, just a sub-division of England.

The Welsh language is incomprehensible and one of the hardest in the world to master in a short period of time. I know, having grown up in a household where my mother, my aunt (who lived with us) and the budgerigar all spoke Welsh in front of my dad, my sister and me – every single day for 15 years.

I even took part in a TV reality show where I was locked up in a derelict Welsh village for a week and force-fed language lessons from dawn to dusk. At the end of dozens of hours of intensive coaching I could just about manage to order a coffee, ask where the nearest five-star hotel was and book a taxi.

Every school holiday until the age of 16 was spent staying with my granny in a small village in North Wales. Three words sum up the experience. Jellyfish. Rain. Gossip. In short, misery.

Grey skies. Grey granite chapels. Grey sea.

Sarah Ferguson has leapt into view, telling Radio Times what a wonderful husband Andrew is

Sarah Ferguson has leapt into view, telling Radio Times what a wonderful husband Andrew is

Since then, I’ve walked the entire country, starting in Cardiff, and ending up in Conwy, climbing every mountain range. Wonderful scenery, divine solitude, and lush green fields. I won’t mention the lack of decent food, the miserable inn keepers and hoteliers outside the big cities, the attitude that you (as a visitor) are a bloody inconvenience. Why choose Wales when you can have a laugh in Ireland and get a roaring welcome in the Highlands?

My mother and my granny both had a traditional attitude to neighbours in their village: deep distrust. If anyone dared to change their net curtains, repaint a front door or speak to someone outside the family, they must be going bonkers or having an affair.

All residents (and they were mostly called Jones) had a nickname, including one poor old lady who had never married and was tagged ‘Cinderella’ because she’d been jilted. One of my uncles was a gravedigger, the other a preacher in the Welsh chapel. They hated each other. One of their sons left to live in Far East the minute he could. My mother’s funeral was held in Welsh – at her request- even though my sister were non-speakers.

At my auntie’s funeral (during Covid) we couldn’t sing. We couldn’t get a cup of tea. And every hotel for 50 miles was shut. We walked along the beach in our funeral clothes, in a grim northerly wind.

Lord Geidt (pictured) finally resigned as the government's Independent Advisor on Minister's Interests because Boris Johnson was seeking to justify rewriting the rules once again

Lord Geidt (pictured) finally resigned as the government’s Independent Advisor on Minister’s Interests because Boris Johnson was seeking to justify rewriting the rules once again

You might understand why I find the notion of rebranding an entire country – this one in particular – a comical idea. You can change the name of Wales, you can write it in pseudo medieval script, you can emphasis trendy zipwire experiences, designer seaweed cakes, craft beer and socks made from knitted leeks, but you can’t get away from the fact that Wales – in advertising terms – is a hard sell.

Rebranding is normally used when someone or something is beyond help. It’s a last resort. Rebranding was dreamt up by the advertising industry to drum up trade and produce more income.

It’s a modern fallacy that ‘rebranding’ anything will make it more palatable.

Our railways have had endless rebrands. Operators come and go (GNER and Virgin to name but two), trains get painted all sorts of colours and seats rearranged- but in the end the entire British Rail network (or whatever it’s called these days) needs a radical modernisation from top to bottom. Not a rebrand tinkering around the edges.

Rebranding public figures has grown into a lucrative industry called ‘reputation management’.

People born in North Wales (like my late mother and her family) don’t consider anyone born south of Caernarvon to be truly Welsh, just a sub-division of England. (Llandudno is pictured)

There are two men in Britain today whose reputations lie in tatters, and who must be prime targets for the rebranding bandits.

Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson.

The Prince has been placed out of sight while Palace officials try to work out what to do. While discussions go on behind closed doors, Sarah Ferguson has leapt into view, telling Radio Times what a wonderful husband Andrew is, and how she would marry him all over again. Unfortunately, an accolade from the woman who enjoyed having her toes sucked by a randy lover is as much help as a wet tea towel after a freezing dip on a Welsh beach.

Rebranding Prince Andrew will surely involve a new address outside the Royal Estates, and a regular wage-paying job. Is there a vacancy for a golf course manager in a part of the Commonwealth that’s still loyal to the Crown? Maybe not.

Can the Prime Minister, with a public approval rating of just 24 per cent, be marketed as a winner rather than an untrustworthy schemer?

When Boris got through Wallpapergate and stumbled into Partygate, a rebranding exercise code named Operation Red Meat was launched by his inner circle, to reposition the Prime Minister in a more positive, trustworthy light.

Colourful houses on the seafront at the Welsh seaside resort of Tenby in Pembrokeshire

Colourful houses on the seafront at the Welsh seaside resort of Tenby in Pembrokeshire

Hardly a day passes without Boris visiting a factory, a school, or a building site, accompanied by his team of tax-payer funder photographers, capturing flattering images of our leader ‘at work’.

He loves a prop – a crane or a digger, or a pot of paint and a brush and a gaggle of tiny children too young to know which way to vote.

Operation Red Meat has been a total disaster as a rebranding exercise, with the Prime Minister losing TWO Ethics advisors in two years- a record and a popularity rating that continues to plummet.

This week, Lord Geidt finally resigned as the government’s Independent Advisor on Minister’s Interests – not because of the disagreements over parties, or wallpaper. He walked because Boris Johnson was seeking to justify rewriting the rules once again, this time relating to the British Steel industry, a move which would endanger our commitments to the World Trade Organization.

Boris wants to rewrite the Brexit agreement to placate Northern Ireland, enraging the EU, who plan to take the UK to court. Now he could open up another costly battle over trade.

No amount of rebranding can disguise the fact this bloke thinks he’s not bound by the same rules as everyone else.

Is he really that ‘special’, or should his failings – like those of Prince Andrew – be rewarded with several weeks in wet and windy North Wales?


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