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Minutes of the

General Meeting of the Alnwick Tourism Association

Held on Wednesday 11 November 2009

In the Alnwick Garden Pavilion

 Present:

Bruce & Jeannette Hewison

West Acre House

Mo & Brian Halliday

Beck n Call

Norry Davie

Birnam House B&B

Philip & Ann Mason

Bogmill Holiday Cottages S/C

Hazel Campbell

Boulmer Village B&B

Janet Holt

Chestnut Tree House

Lee Teasdale

Coach House B&B

Margaret & Phil Agan

Column View S/C

Sandra Henzel

CoquetBB

Maureen & Peter Mason

Courtyard Garden B&B

Mandy Lance

Fairfield House

Bill & Dawn McDonald

Four Winds B&B

Peter Howard & Jane Woolley

Harbour Lights B&B

Margery Vickers

Hawkhill farmhouse

Celia Curry

Howick Scar farm B&B

Bill & Jenny Robinson

Jubilee Court S/C

Jonathon & Joanne Woollett

Linhope House B&B

Pauline & Nic Grant

Mansard Cottage S/C

Richard & Christine Wilson

No1. Springfield B&B

Barry & Catherine Lister

Old Bewick

Christine Brown & Sally Douglas

Old Manse B&B

Fyona & Michael Robson

Pine Lodges Craster

Liz Wood

Prudhoe Street B&B

Judith Price

Pugmill - S/C

Jane McHugh

The Red Lion

Simone Neri

Sefton House

Debbie Jackman

Shepherd’s Cottage S/C

Jan & Peter Lowes

Starfish Cottage

Linda & Bob Twist

Swallows Rest

Carole Whitefield

The Sheiling S/C

Also In attendance:

PC Andy Welsh – Northumbria Police
PC Katrina Cassidy – Northumbria Police


The Chairman called the meeting to order.

 

1 Apologies:

 Apologies were received from:

Bill & Jean Armstrong Aln House B&B
Laura Davison Alndyke Farm B&B and S/C
Viv Butcher & Louise Sweeney Alnwick Cottages S/C
Steph McLaughlin Amble Guest House B&B
Arthur & Jane Carroll Aydon Guest House B&B
Richard & Rosemary Slipper Baileygate House S/C
Juliet Wakefield Bailiffgate B&B
Karen & Mick Oxley Beech Cottage S/C
Lesley Blythe Beech Lodge B&B
Gaye Blewitt Birchwood House B&B
Lisa Parisi The Bolthole S/C
Hazel Campbell Boulmer Village B&B
Ian & Therese Atheron Buston Hall Cottage
Cheviot Holiday Cottages
Dean Wilkinson Cheviot View B&B
Carol and Mike Smith Coastal Cottages S/C
Grace Hall Coquetside B&B
Carol Megson East House Farm B&B
Peter Howard & Jane Woolley Harbour Lights B&B
Ian & Therese Atherton High Buston Hall S/C
Anthony Hope Hopes Photo's
Julia & Richard Wood The Hotspur Apt S/C
Andrew Turnbull Louis Steakhouse
Diana Vickers Low Hedgeley Farm B&B
Paul & Linda Smith Mahonia Lodge S/C
Bob & Alison Culverwell The Masons Arms
Helen & Graham Wyld New Moor House S/C
Mike & Jean Cockerill Northumberland House S/C
Christine & David Jackson Old Rectory B&B
Paul Penman Percy Tce B&B
Di Jevons Picklewood Cottage S/C
Robbie & Ruth Davidson Proctor’s Stead S/C
& Caravan Park
Elizabeth Sells River Cottage B&B
Claire Gibson Roxbro House B&B
Miriam Imrie Seahaven S/C
Sally Stafford Stonecroft B&B
Mr & Mrs Hollins Sunnyside S/C
Margaret & Chris Bignell Tower House B&B
Crissy Stoker Village Farm Cottages S/C
Janice Edwards Westlea B&B

 

 

2 Approval of Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 28 th April 2009

 The Minutes were accepted by all members present.

3 Matters Arising

  There were no matters arising.

 

4 Accommodation Providers Watch

 The Chairman introduced PC Andy Walsh.

PC Walsh explained that he is the Neighbourhood Beat Manager for the Alnwick area and introduced PC Katrina Cassidy who is a member of his team. His team comprises two Community Support Officers and neighbourhood wardens who look after concerns re criminal activity in our neighbourhood. They have established neighbourhood watches as a way of communicating with particular groups of people – existing watches include Caravan, Farm and Pub. These have proved an efficient way of passing on information about relevant criminal activity in the area. They are looking at establishing an accommodation providers watch for Alnwick and wanted to know if the members would be interested.

A member asked how the scheme would help us as accommodation providers. PC Walsh explained that it would enable them to pass on to us information that might be useful: fraudulent guests using B&Bs and leaving without paying, to more serious activity such as if a terrorist is believed to be travelling through the area. He gave an example that recently a thief had been stealing charity boxes and was moving around different B&B accommodation in the north of England. An Accommodation Providers Watch would enable the team to raise an alert that would quickly inform us of activity in our area. PC Walsh gave his assurance that any information given to his team would be kept in confidence.

Katrina Cassidy acts as “keeper of the watches” and is responsible for sending out alerts via voice message, email and text. She explained that the system allows the team to distribute alerts within minutes. They are also planning production of a regular newsletter covering information on crime prevention.

Jeanette Hewison raised a concern about a Rape that had reportedly taken place in Alnwick. The Northumberland Gazette newspaper had quoted that B&Bs were being contacted about the incident by Police but as far as she is aware no B&B’s were contacted for information. Jeanette had contacted the police for information but was told that the information was subject to data protection. The problem was that mention of the alleged rape was posted on Trip Advisor, saying that Alnwick was a dangerous place and that 3 rapes had occurred in the last year: this could put off people visiting and staying here. PC Walsh explained that what was reported in the press was not what happened and the case was open ended, therefore it would have been inappropriate for the Serious Incident Manager to have commented.

PC Walsh assured the members that the Neighbourhood Team would respond to enquiries within 24 hours.

Norry Davie said he felt the scheme was important from the point of view that we have strangers staying in our homes. He had recently had a situation where the alert system would have been useful, when a guest had had to be helped to find the accommodation by a policeman following an accident in the early hours of the morning.

Peter Lowes asked if alerts would include information of criminals who are moving around the country and heading in this direction. PC Walsh said that they would do so if they recognised a pattern developing in a criminal behaviour that was likely to affect our area.

It was recognised that the Chairman had been helpful in the past by alerting members of problem guests in the area.

The Chairman asked for a show of hands of members happy to go ahead with the scheme. The majority of members were in agreement.

Forms were distributed at the meeting for those wishing to be included in the Watch to complete with their details. Following the meeting the Chairman will email the form to the rest of the membership.

Post meeting note - Following the meeting the Chairman emailed the details of the scheme to the Association and included the form for those members wishing to take part.

 

5 Alcohol Licensing re accommodation providers

 The Chairman explained that he had taken this up with the Home Office as Visit Britain had said that a licence was required by anyone serving an alcoholic drink to a guest. It has now been established that it is not necessary to have a licence to give guests a gift of alcohol. It would only be required if it was advertised as part of the package or stated that it was part of the meal etc. To give it freely was within the law.

6 On-Line Booking Systems

 Tom Bowes had planned to discuss his experience of on-line booking systems but unfortunately he was unable to attend the meeting. The Chairman explained that Tom has been running two systems – Evivo and MYUK – so the results of his experience might be useful to members considering using an on-line booking system.

Norry Davie commented that he had found there are sometimes hidden charges with Evivo. Third party websites such as Late Rooms take their cut and then Evivo take a commission. Travel Republic charges come up 33% when they take all the money up front. He recommended that anyone considering using Evivo carefully check all the details of the different websites. It is possible to request that only a deposit is taken rather than the full amount which reduces the charges paid.

Post meeting note: A document compiled by Tom Bowes comparing the pros and cons of the systems he has used was circulated to members.

7 Advertising on Third Party Websites

  The Chairman explained that advertising on third party websites had been discussed at a recent Committee meeting. Using search words for the Alnwick area usually brings the ATA site up on the first page of Google so the concern is that by advertising on a number of sites the ATA site’s Google rating will become diluted reducing its effectiveness.

Philip Mason commented that he was unsure of whether it would dilute the site’s rating. He is aware that there are a number of websites that list their property even though they have never requested a listing, but having received business through them feels they can be advantageous.

Richard Wilson commented that Direct Line make it a point in their advertising that they do not appear on other websites. He believes that focusing our collective attention on the Visit Alnwick site can have a stronger impact than putting listings on lots of different sites.

The Chairman had recently been contacted by a third party website who had given his business an unrequested listing and expected to use the key words he uses for his own and the ATA sites. He changed the key words to cover a wider geographical area on the basis that if it does generate enquiries they will be ones that he would not have received otherwise but will not detract search engines from picking up the ATA site and his own.

8 ATA Website

  • Availability calendar

The Chairman reported that many members have started using the availability calendar on the ATA site. This is a really useful tool for visitors - it allows them to contact businesses who are showing availability so can reduce the numbers of calls you receive for dates that are already booked and can also influence visitors to select dates when you have vacancies.

Anyone who does not have a calendar already can contact the Chairman to have one created.


 9 Any Other Business

 The Chairman reported that he had been invited to attend a meeting with Christian Perdrier. He has some good ideas and is very well connected. His appointment will be excellent not just for the Castle/Garden but also for the Alnwick area as he hopes to bring in investment to the area. He would like to have a meeting with ATA, RACTA and Northumberland Tourism in about two weeks time.

Post meeting note: the meeting has been arranged for Wednesday 2 December and the Chairman has sent out invitations to members of the ATA, RACTA, North Northumberland Tourism Association and local Alnwick Businesses.


Norrie Davey asked if he had given any indication of how long he plans to stay in the area.

The Chairman stated that at the earlier meeting that he had had with Mr Perdrier that he indicated this would be his last project before he retires. He recently worked in Dubai and previously for Euro Disney. One member had heard him interviewed on the radio and he had said he planned to retire in Northumberland.

DVD Conceirge Licence:
Janet Holt asked if any response had been received from Anne-Marie Trevelyan re DVD concierge licences. The Chaiman said that the feed back that he has had is that if you offer the use of DVDs to your guests then you should have a licence.

Norrie Davey asked if any DVDs were excepted from the licence such as those given away in newspapers. The Chaiman said he understood a licence was required for any DVD.

Merging with Rothbury & Coquetdale:
The Chairman suggested the possibility of merging with the Rothbury and Coquetdale Association. He explained that he offered this as food for thought, any comments can be emailed to him and it can be discussed at the AGM in May.

Janet Holt mentioned that we had issues in the past in regard to boundaries. She felt that our association works well as it is and is unsure if it would work as well if it is enlarged.

Sandra Hensell commented that as she lives in middle of the two areas, she is a member of both associations. She thinks it would be beneficial for both parties for them to join. As one large group we could have more power and be more influential.

The Chairman stressed that in this area, Alnwick is a honey pot for visitor numbers, then the Coast and then Rothbury. The ATA has 120 members at the moment and RACTA about 70, with a few who are in both. As a combined group we could wield more influence. It would be easier for parties such as the Garden and Castle to talk to one group rather than several.

Promotion by ONE:
Norrie Davey told the meeting that he had recently attended a meeting in Ashington with Go Wansbeck. He had come away with the impression that ONE may decide Castle and Garden who do their own PR are well taken care of and leave out our area in future promotions.

Future Evening Dress Social:
The Chairman asked if the members would be interested in holding a ‘collar and tie and evening dress’ social event along with the General Meeting next year. Some concerns were voiced about the venue, and although a few were very interested, there wasn’t sufficient interest in doing it. The matter was left open and could be discussed at a later date.

 

10 Date and time of next meeting (AGM 2010)

 

To be held May 2010 – date and venue to be decided.

 

 

The Chairman closed the meeting.

 

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