THOUSANDS of taxi drivers are being encouraged to take a crash course in all things Welsh ahead of the 2010 Ryder Cup.
From being able to pronounce “bore da” to knowing the nation’s history and how many castles it has, new workshops are designed to help cabbies give international visitors a uniquely Welsh welcome.
They are being taught the history of the Ryder Cup and its influential backer, Sir Terry Matthews, as well as where visitors can go for a round of golf.
Some of the regions being focused on in the workshop include Cardiff, the Wye Valley, the Brecon Beacons and the Valleys. Key facts and figures include Wales’ 641 castles, 189 golf courses and 97 beaches.
But there is also advice surely already well known to South Wales’ night-time drivers. The workshop information tells them: “Know your visitors. They are in for a long day and may become tired, confused or intoxicated.”
With just 51 days to go until the Ryder Cup tees off at the Celtic Manor Resort, tourism officials say drivers will act as important ambassadors for the region.
Taxi industry leaders last night welcomed the initiative, which is being funded by Visit Wales, and warned drivers not to over-charge wealthy tourists.
About 45,000 people a day are expected to visit the resort during the event, from October 1 to 3, and it’s hoped thousands will explore Cardiff, Newport and further afield.
The 45-minute seminars have been developed by Coleg Llandrillo on behalf of Capital Region Tourism, the lead tourism body in South-East Wales.
More than 200 businesses, including hotels such as Swansea’s Marriott, Sandringham Cardiff and the capital’s St David’s Hotel and Spa, are already putting their staff through the workshops.
Staff from Severn Bridge, Arriva Trains and Stena Line ferry services between Fishguard and Rosslare have also signed up.
Alice Brown, Capital Region Tourism project manager, said: “The capital region will be the focus of world attention for a very short time during the 2010 Ryder Cup.
“The welcome sessions will give the Cardiff cabbies tips and tools to make sure visitors fully appreciate that they are in Wales and that we have a distinctive and high quality welcome to offer, not only during the week of the tournament but long after it has taken place.
“Everyone has a role to play, however small, in ensuring visitors remember their visit to Wales in a positive light. Even a short taxi ride can have an impact on the overall perception of Wales.
“The region stands to gain more from the legacy of the 2010 Ryder Cup than immediately during the event. We want to put Wales on the world map for the right reasons so that visitors return again and again to experience that warm Welsh welcome.”
Course tutor Angelena Boden, who delivered similar seminars in Atlanta and Sydney before the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, said: “First impressions count and we are determined that cabbies are given the skills they need to offer a truly warm Welsh welcome to people whenever they are in Wales. This short session encapsulates the essence of why a Welsh welcome is important and different.
“The cabbies will come away with the information they need to be able to make that first impression a positive experience. If they can help persuade just one customer to come back to the area for another, maybe longer holiday, then that’s good for everyone.”
Mathab Khan, chairman of the Cardiff Hackney Association, said: “Of course we are ambassadors. We are the first line of service that people from all over the world will meet. It’s important we give them a warm welcome.
“I am not from Wales, but I have lived and worked in Cardiff for 35 years. I love this city and I am very proud of the way it is developing. The Ryder Cup is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we want to make it as special as possible.
“I would ask all taxi drivers, including private hire drivers, to avoid overcharging customers. Cardiff Central station to Celtic Manor Resort should cost no more than £35, depending on the traffic situation. Drivers must be reasonable and charge accordingly.”
Welcome to the 2010 Ryder Cup is taking place at the National Museum, Cardiff on August 24, with three 45-minute sessions starting at 12 noon, 1.30pm or 3pm.