A new campaign has been launched to get visitors switched on to the scenic beauty of the Clwydian Range.

Local tourism operators have been given a helping hand to reach out to potential new customers via social media and digital marketing.

Members of the Clwydian Range Tourism Group signed up to a series of courses organised as part of the Digital Clwyd pilot project.

The idea was masterminded by the rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd whose remit includes the Clwydian Range that is officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Their contribution came via the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.

The tutor was IT expert Dr Les Pritchard, who runs a company called Neterix and is a lecturer at Bangor University’s School of Computer Science.

Dr Pritchard said: “We’re talking tourism here so, by definition, the people these businesses want to reach don’t live locally.

“You’re really trying to attract people that you couldn’t attract in normal local advertising so you have to try to achieve that same level of recommendation and promotion – and the internet is the ideal place to do it.

“Social media is perfect for that because people feel really invested if they come to somewhere really nice and they have a great time; they want to tell people about it.

“Personal recommendation, photos and graphics really work well on all of the social media.

“We all like to see where we’re going to stay. In that sense, social media is a godsend this because you can actually reach out across the world.

“The cost involved for getting onto social media is fairly minimal.  Compared to having a huge advertising campaign, to go onto social media to build up some of your loyal fans and get a good presence there really does help.

“Conversely, not being on social media is a huge disadvantage. I speak to a lot of people now who say that when they go on holiday, they look up hotels and if they haven’t got a social media presence, they’re actually not considering them.

The courses were a big hit according to Jeff Morgan, the Chair of the Clwydian Range Tourism Group, which has around 100 members.

Jeff, who also runs a four-star bed and breakfast business in Axton, near Holywell, with his wife, Kate, said: “I don’t do social media on a personal basis at all but, for the business, I recognise that you need to do keep the awareness out there.

“I recognise that I’m not doing it as much as I should be doing it but I think running these courses with Les has just opened my eyes to the potential there.

“The courses were very good because Les went out of his way to get to know who the people were on the course. He could then relate it to the individual businesses.

“Things like Facebook give you the reach at a low cost, that you can never achieve through any other medium.

“These courses will inspire me to do more. It’ll give me a lot more confidence than I had before.  For so many people, Facebook is their first port of call so you just need to be there. It’s like a shop window.”

Organiser Sue Haygarth, who coordinated the courses on behalf of Cadwyn Clwyd, was delighted with the excellent take up in Flintshire and Denbighshire.

Among the topics covered were Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, building websites, email marketing along with search engine optimisation and online security.

She said: ” Cadwyn Clwyd were aware that a lot of small businesses, micro enterprises who employ nine or less, really struggle to access training sometimes, either because they’re small, so there’s only a couple of people in the company, or because of their location.

“The best way to deliver to these very small businesses was deemed to be through networks and groups that were already there, like business groups, chambers of trade, tourism groups along with social enterprises, community businesses and community shops.

“Cadwyn Clwyd has seen the benefit already and they’re talking to the Welsh Government about doing more in future to help these very small micro enterprises which are isolated or working together because they are so important to the local economy.”