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Grazalema Information Centre (Sierra de Grazalema, Andalucia)

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Offline Clive

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« on: January 14, 2010, 16:09 PM »
Hi all...... I have been a bit pre occupied of late and existing in a kind of limbo land or hovering at a crossroads if you like.... The choices were... Hit the road again and spend a few years researching and writing about Spains amazing wildlife or open the damned information centre in Grazalema so that we can at least provide a bit of help for knowledge hungry travellers.... The thing is, whilst waiting for the results of the submitted project there seemed little point planning anything else and the wheels of the local authorities move very slowly indeed...

To cut a very long story short, the official information centre in Grazalema has been closed yet again due to various reasons... We sell a lot of our photographic work from this centre and with the doors shut we have lost a valuable income stream... There was only one answer really.... We prepared and submitted a project to run the centre ourselves and have just been notified that we have won the project. There were various other companies also submitting projects but all of them fell short of our experience and commitment to the promotion of rural and activity tourism in general... It helped greatly that we already have Wildside Holidays and The Grazalema Guide working well as examples of this commitment. Our investment both financially and of working time is quite large and as we step into this new direction it is just a little bit scary.....

So we will shortly be moving our office from here in the valley below Grazalema to the village itself... Broadband internet at last!

Wildside Holidays will benefit from extra exposure from the information centre and the Grazalema Guide will become the foremost resource for information on this amazing area of Western Andalucia... It will be strange at first swapping this very idylic lifestlye working from home with a trip to the office each day but the challenge was too much to resist and we really do need to sell our photographs.... :)

And finally..... A huge thank you to Nick and Monica (Who even worked on her birthday) who did the official translation of our project and other information that in the end won the contract..... If anyone needs any translation doing... NIck is your man

 :sign:
« Last Edit: January 14, 2010, 16:10 PM by Clive »
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Offline Dave

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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2010, 17:17 PM »
Hi Clive
The very best of luck with your new project, yes it will seem a bit strange going to work in a office, once again, but at least you will be working with nature still, and more importantly educating people
regards
Dave

Offline lisa

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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2010, 18:08 PM »
Congratulations to you both all!  :sign:

There's probably room for a bed in there too. You planning on having any info about the rest of the country?  >:D
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2010, 18:27 PM »
Thanks Dave If we can do even a little of what you say I will be happy..... :)

Yes Lisa.... there will be an area dedicated to the rest of Spain and all the best information websites and companies.... There will be some serious plugging going on...... :)
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2010, 18:48 PM »
Here is part of the proposed plan that we scribbled down to win the project.... There is more... A lot more but I won't post it I promise.. :)

General Proposal
The proposal for us (Clive Muir and Sue Eatock) to take over the running of the information centre in Grazalema is born from our desire to expand our already existing promotional web based services to tourism in Iberia/Grazalema and our concern that visitors to Grazalema are not at the moment receiving the very best information and help in order to make their stay both enjoyable and productive… The Sierra de Grazalema is one of the oldest designated natural park areas in Spain and the village of Grazalema, being at its geographic centre, needs an information resource for the huge number of visitors that (more often than not) head for Grazalema first and foremost when entering the park area… It is logical after all, that Grazalema would have with the most information available as it is the namesake of the very parkland, the Sierra de Grazalema. The very best form of advertising is “word of mouth”. A visitor who is well informed will enjoy his visit more and very possibly return for future visits. This person will also share his good experiences with fellow travellers via trip reports, travel websites, personal weblogs and conversations with other people. The power of these actions as an advertising medium is huge (especially now with the internet) so it is important that a visitor leaves the area with positive thoughts on the quality of his stay. The information centre that we maintain will provide items needed for all types of visitors interested in the natural world, gastronomy, culture and activities available in the area.

Benefits for Grazalema
The benefits for Grazalema itself are numerous and as we have looked at this project from a different angle (as accomplished travellers rather than locals) we see that we can provide a lot of subsidiary services to the area as a by product of us maintaining the information centre. Rather the information centre will be a base where we can help Grazalema move forward with a sustainable model of tourism that includes catering to visitors of all nationalities especially the most common visitors from outside Spain (UK, Germany, France, Netherlands)

Some benefits that we can supply directly from the outset are listed below and this list can of course be expanded at any time as our project evolves.

1. Permanent employment of 2 local individuals (These staff members will also receive informal basic English lessons from us and also the possibility of taking distance courses in various subjects related to travel, tourism and wildlife

2. A high quality service for visitors to the village of Grazalema with at the very beginning multi lingual support (Spanish, English and German). The reputation of Grazalema as a centre for tourism information will grow as our high level of service becomes known.

3. Provide a location platform for exhibitions relating to the area. These would include offering local artists and photography clubs to display their work for viewing and sale. Also travelling exhibitions such as the photographic competition winners and special exhibitions run by the natural park authorities etc.

4. The promotion of the information centre, Grazalema and the area as a whole through our networks of existing websites and also the creation of a dedicated website for the information centre that will easily become the top of search result in major search engines due to our expertise in this field.

5. The information centre will be open every day from 10 am to 5 pm without closing for lunch. (Holidays such as tres reyes and new years day we need to look at but possibly the information centre would be closed for these days).

6. The information centre will provide a platform for local businesses to advertise their services and products

7. The information centre will provide a platform and display area for local artisan craft workers to display and sell their products




Products and Services
Given that Grazalema and its natural park area has the reputation for providing some of the best wildlife and nature orientated activities in Europe it is only natural that this will make up a large part of the services and products offered… It is a fact that visitors to Grazalema are very often seeking help with entering restricted areas of the natural park. At this point the process is difficult and confusing for non Spanish speakers. Emphasis also needs to be made on gastronomy, culture and history of the area..

Below is a list of services to be offered by the information centre many of which will provide a much needed revenue for continued operation. This list is not exclusive and more services can be added and implemented as and when needed.

1. At the very beginning of us taking over running of the information centre we will create a connection via phone and fax with the visitor centre in El Bosque in order to help visitors arrange and receive the permit to enter restricted areas of the natural park… (We understand that there is a plan in process by the park authorities to implement an internet based system but whilst this is not in operation we still need to aid people as much as possible. The feedback we get from our website www.grazalemaguide.com is that very often people do not see some of the more interesting parts of the natural park as getting the permits are too problematic. This booking service for walking permits will be charged at 1 Euro per booking in order to cover phone and fax costs.

2. A large selection of books for sale covering various subjects of the area. Guide books for walking, ornithology, botany and other wildlife. Books on history, culture and general subjects of the area… There is a huge array of excellent publications available in various languages that are available and we intend to stock as many as is possible. Sales will be made directly to the information centre visitors and also through mail order via the centre’s dedicated website.

3. A large selection of maps and guides covering Grazalema, and western Andalucia in general. Some of these will be for sale and others will be free information leaflets produced by the natural park authorities and other entities.

4. Production, printing and sales of our own wildlife images in print and postcard format

5. Production, printing and sales of our brief guides for the area in English, Spanish, German and French

6. Sample stands promoting and selling local artisan products such as basket weaving, pottery, blankets, soaps etc… Emphasis will always be on locally produced items (Commission on sales to be arranged directly with the producer).

7 A translation service with very competitive prices from Spanish to any language required. This service is ideal for local businesses and indeed the local council. The importance of properly translated information from things as basic as restaurant menus to in depth information boards and leaflets and also business websites should not be underestimated. Just a quick look around Grazalema on any day of the week will see visitors from all over Europe and indeed the world. They need information in their language to enhance the quality of their visit..

9. Information boards with adverts from local businesses such as restaurants, shops and hotels. Visitors to the information centre will be directed to the boards when they ask information about products, places to eat or places to sleep. The companies involved will pay a small fixed yearly amount to the information centre in order to display their service… This makes us (the visitor centre) function without bias to individual companies as the advertising boards will be open to all…

9. A cycle hire concession in partnership with a local company. This can be increased to guided cycling in both road and mountain biking. (Commission to be arranged directly with the company)

10. Public toilets to the left and right of the information centre will be maintained at all times, kept clean and stocked with the necessary products (for the running). We have an idea that these toilets would be open and free to use during the information centre office hours but be fitted with a coin operated lock that can be activated out of office hours… A small cost of 20 cents would help to recover some costs. (This is only an idea and has not been discussed yet with the relevant authorities).
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Offline lucy

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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2010, 19:10 PM »
Congratulations Clive and Sue - I think they chose the right people for the job! 

Not a bad drive to the office either.

Offline elmussol

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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2010, 21:27 PM »
Sincerest congratulations.

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Offline glennie

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« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2010, 08:46 AM »
 :clapping: :clapping: :clapping:

Offline parthenope

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« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2010, 10:56 AM »
If I walked into an information centre looking for quality insights into the local wildlife, landscapes, villages & historic sites of interest, with Clive & Sue there waiting to greet me, I'd know that I'd hit the jackpot.

Congratulations Clive & Sue I'm sure the visitor centre will be a great success

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Offline Clive

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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2010, 19:07 PM »
Thanks all..... The wheels move very slowly here... We have been trying to get all this organised since November.... The plan was to cash in for Christmas and Three kings but we never made that deadline.... Looks like we will be in first week of February... There are still a few details to organise first and although we are ready the council are on a go slow.... argggghhhh!
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Offline nick

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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2010, 23:12 PM »
That's absolutely great Clive and Sue,

We know you've put loads of hard work into this  :banghead:  :roxysnail:  :noidea: and we're sure you'll do a great job of running the place  :dancing:. It really is an ideal job for both of you. Telling people what to see and do in Grazalema 8), and wil surely help to cement yourselves further into the community into which Sam has been born. Must feel like a dream come true. :biggrin:

Many congratulations

 :santa_afro:

Nick and Mónica
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2010, 17:26 PM »
Finally, contracts will be signed tommorrow and we get the keys..... We already got 2 members of staff lined up (Spanish from the village) plus work has started on the book and map supplies..... Ha! Grazalema Guide is already google number one for "information Grazalema" :) and I haven't even started with the websites yet...... Now it's timeto throw some cash into the bottomless pit that we have chosen as our future..... Ouch

:)
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2010, 19:28 PM »
Greetings and Congratulations Sue 'n' Sam 'n' Clive,
Great news! I'm really impressed and happy for you. Excellent initiative and proposal - and definitely the ideal job for you. :clapping:

We'll make sure your the Grazalema website gets loads of visits.

Positive-vibes-on-their-way-down-from-Madrid regs.,
Technopat

PS.
Of course, another positive aspect to this is that you'll have less time to spend administrating this 'ere Great iberianatureforum and keeping its playful mice in line...
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2010, 19:05 PM »
Thanks Tp and all.... :) (Tp I have extra cyber eyes to keep a watch on the rodents here... A bit like super powers... )

Today we signed the contract and are in posession of a set of keys to the official information centre in Grazalema.....!

Contracts with two staff members will be signed this or next week and opening licence is in "tramite".... We have already started moving our office up to the new place....

Money is draining from our reserves at an alarming rate.... The plan is to be ready fot 28th of this month which is dia de Andalucia here... A big weekend puente..... Got to make some cash.....

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Offline steveT

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« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2010, 00:09 AM »
Sorry how did I miss this!!!!!

Fantastic news Clive and Sue .

Steve and Megs


Offline nick

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« Reply #15 on: February 09, 2010, 00:27 AM »
At last signed! Phew
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2010, 07:46 AM »
Greetings Clive,
So you've got liitle Sam potty-trained AND PC-savvy already :o
I was aware that each new version launched is an improvement on the previous one, that's basic evolution, that is, but shouldn't he be out there on your veg. patch, getting mucky and uprooting carrots and stuff to his heart's content?

I'll-have-me-work-cut-out-to-get-past-the-scrutiny-of-the-Grazalema-Nipper regs.,
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2010, 11:20 AM »
Yay!

Centro de Información de Grazalema is now open.... Two keen willing workers and even starting to point people on the right paths ... Gosh even sold some books already

:)
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Offline parthenope

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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2010, 11:51 AM »
Every epic journey has it's first tentative steps, well done Clive & Sue :clapping: :clapping: :clapping:

You've always been great at pointing people along the right track :biggrin:

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Offline Clive

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« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2011, 12:26 PM »
Hi all,

It is with great sadness that I have to announce the imminent closure of the Information centre in Grazalema. (The 3rd of October 2011).

Over the last 2 years we have developed a public service that has never been seen before in this village in the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema. With five languages spoken, open almost every day of the year. with our exhibitions and relentless promotion of the businesses, Sierra and village in general. I and my team have worked very hard to promote a sustainable tourism model for the benefit of all. Most of all for the thousands of visitors that come here every month of the year.

During this time I have received no financial aid from anyone. Over 100,000 Euros invested into the project from my own pocket with constant promises from the town hall and various other entities that they will help. Empty promises and a lot of lies on top. Some of you who know my centre have seen the shop and the amazing flour mill but the profits from these parts of the project fall short of around 2000 euros a month. The reason being that 80 percent of the people that come in to the office do so in order to orientate themselves with free information about the village and area in general. They then leave happily after using the toilets that i pay for and without even buying a postcard. We are the face of tourism in a village that depends 100 percent on it's visitors and 45 percent of those visitors are not Spanish, they come from all over Europe and the world

The original building here was reformed in 2009 using funds from the project known as "Cultur-Cad". This project in Cádiz province runs from 2009 to 2013 and had 72 million euros at it's disposal from the EU fund... Mostly the money has been used to create information centres, museums and footpaths plus repair castle walls etc... There is still 18 million euros in the pot for future projects... The problem is that the money is never used to maintain projects that are completed and many of them are closed... One example of this is the centro de interpretación in the village of El gastor but on the shore of the zahara resevoir... It cost 300,000 euros and was opened to much fanfair and lots of back slapping... 8 months later it was closed, all the information panels removed and a cheap, nasty bar put inside instead. Sure you can hire canoes and get drunk there. Eat from the kitchen if you don't mind picking out the dog hairs from your food...The same thing happened here at my centre... 280,000 euros and closed 6 months later. When I opened the door after signing the contract to reopen this place I could not believe my eyes. Not a light bulb working. An 80 thousand euro audio visual system broken and museum pieces literally rotting onto the floor. Still, I and my team set about making something to be proud of and with the promise of a financial aid package within 6 months I gladly invested 40,000 euros into an "ideal" I had and to some extent still have.

I am told we are in "crisis" and that there is no money but this is a lie. I have seen over 300,000 euros of town hall money put into various fiestas in the village over the last 2 years. Painting competitions with hardly any participants, eco markets with no customers, the list is endless. Why is there no access to a financial package that can help me and my team to continue our work? To continue the basic idea of a sustainable tourism that protects our environment and also provides a public service and creates jobs and promotes businesses? I have only ever asked for a one off amount of 80,000 euros but am told that there is no money available…. “Cultur-Cad” is worth 72 million euros…….. Why is there no funding to protect existing projects yet millions for new ones…. New projects that are doomed to failure... Can anyone answer me why the new information centre in Benalup/Casas Viejas cost 2.2 million Euros? Any one got an idea why the new centre in Arcos de la Frontera that cost 3 million has no disabled access? which by their own laws makes it an illegal public building.

I could go on a lot more about dozens of other projects amounting to many millions but I guess that explains the guts of the problems I and my staff face now... In two weeks time two amazing workers will be on the dole plus a young girl here learning about tourism... and me? Well, I am autonomo and my assesor has explained to me that autonomos dont get dole... Thanks guys after taking 250 euros from me every month for the last 5 years.....

There is one ray of hope. The vice president of the disputation of Cádiz is coming next week to see the problem himself... It would be nice if this guy could just do the right thing and sign a cheque but I'm not holding my breath.... Interesting though that my team are still holding out with hope... Heck, they have even offered to work for no pay in order to continue. That is not the answer though...

The real solution is for the town hall and the people in charge of Cultur-Cad and other EU funds to take some responsibility and pride in their work. Help the people who want to make a difference. Some chance though as this attitude of waste by the people who sign the cheques is the underlying reason for almost all the economic problems facing Europe now.

Thank you to everyone that has supported us over the last couple of years... To the artists for their amazing exhibitions and to all that has ever visited us here at the centre.... Any millionaires out their in forum land?

Oh yes, if anyone can write an email to me in Spanish or English protesting about this situation I can use it as a last minute defense of this great project. clive@grazalemaguide.com

Clive Muir
Centro de Información Turística - Grazalema
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