TOURISM chiefs are using "anachronistic" and "stereotypical" views of Wales to promote the country to the wider world, a new paper claims today.
Wales' National Librarian Andrew Green said some would regard the national image projected by the Wales Tourist Board (WTB) as "outdated" and "conventional".
Mr Green attacks a range of Government websites promoting Wales and suggests ways they should be improved in his paper published by the Institute of Welsh Affairs.
In Wales on the Web he writes, "What is needed is what may be called a Welsh 'virtual embassy', a place on the web where internet users abroad would congregate to find out about Wales."
Mr Green says the National Assembly's 'Wales World Nation' attempts to do this, but falls far short of what is required.
A spokesperson for the Assembly, who was also responding on behalf of the WTB, said there are some excellent public sector websites, but acknowledged there is much work to be done to improve others.
The librarian says the Assembly's site is small and "gives no more than a taster of some of the more obvious characteristics of the country as they might appeal to the interest or curiosity of the average world citizen."
Mr Green recommends bringing together the several disconnected sites representing public sector groups like the Assembly and the WTB to make life easier for web users researching information on Wales.
"It is, of course, difficult to achieve a consensus about which parts of contemporary Wales are significant or worth projecting to an outside audience.
"The Wales Tourist Board, for understandable reasons, chooses to accentuate aspects of Wales that would be regarded as anachronistic and stereotypical to other agencies seeking to overturn what they see as outdated and conventional national self-images."
The librarian said efforts must also be made to take advantage of the current vogue for researching family history as a way of pulling in tourists with Welsh origins.
"There is, for example, considerable latent potential in exploiting family and community history resources in the National Library and other archives to attract those of Welsh extraction who live overseas.
"This would mirror successful attempts by Irish agencies to exploit overseas markets, especially in the United States."
Mr Green said there are problems across the board with public-sector websites failing to promote Wales in overseas markets - whether they be tourism or business related.
"The Welsh Development Agency has a website designed to interest potential overseas investors in Wales.
"Yet few other national public agencies have websites or sections of websites directed specifically at those outside Wales.
"A great deal more could be done, amongst others by the Assembly Government, to encourage better provision."
Mr Green said most internet users are based in wealthy countries, and marketing strategies and websites should be designed to appeal to these audiences.
"It is important to be clear about the nature of the global audience.
"Web users are not distributed evenly across the globe but rather are concentrated in developed countries.
"More than half of them are in the United States which, from a commercial point of view, is not necessarily a disadvantage."
A spokesperson for the Assembly said their website is being improved.
"We can't comment on the content of a report we haven't seen.
"What we can say, and what is not a surprise, is that there are some excellent examples of web-based communication in the wider public sector, as well as areas where a lot of work needs to be done. The Welsh Assembly Government website, for example, is currently undergoing a major revamp."