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Luggage Transfer Correos

What’s doing at the Pilgrim Office...

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I have been working as a volunteer since 6 May. My final day, this time, is 20 May.

I return again to work my annual one-month volunteer stint from 15 July - 12 August.

Every time I come here, I learn something new. There are some tidbits I thought I would share.

1. The arrival rates and pilgrim queues now, in mid-May are near what I am used to seeing in mid-July. The queue to get a Compostela seems to get to two hours each day about 13:00.

2. That long queue is usually worked down to a < 30-minute wait by about 17:00 or so.

3. We had been suggesting that pilgrims consider coming back at opening, 08:00 the next morning. However, that notion went south on Tuesday, when some 100 pilgrims decided to avoid the lines, and “come early.” In addition, the French now have a Catholic Mass at 08:00 in the Pilgrim Office chapel. After that Mass, a couple dozen newly arrived pilgrims get on the queue for Compostelas.

4. Presently, the best advice to avoid overly long queues is to come between 17:00 and 19:30. After then, security is likely to close the outer doors / gates so the paid staff can complete processing all the pilgrims then inside, and get home to their families at the 21:00 official closing time.

5. Chatting with staff over the past week or more, I was informed of some planned changes, as part of the effort to ramp up in time for the coming 2021 Holy Year. Here is what I have been reliably told or personally seen:

5.1 I was informed that they were planning on having Wi-Fi for pilgrims. My immediate reply was that: (a) they were crazy as pilgrims would NEVER leave the premises, and (b) this ONLY made sense if the open Wi-Fi was to support automated Compostela processing.

5.2 This week, I learned, and was shown, a prototype web page to collect all the “estadillo” data via the internet, before the pilgrim arrived at the office. This is the form you complete at the counter, while staff reviews your credencial and finds your Latin name.

The internet application I was shown collected the information then gave a pop-up telling you the likely Latin first name and asking for concurrence. If you did not agree, you were prompted to key in the name YOU wanted as your given name.

Once past this, another pop-up asked if you wanted a distance certificate (@ €3,00). Once past this, the system would produce a QR code and and an ‘on or after’ reporting time.

Returning on time, you would show the QR code to security. Once past security, you would be immediately sent to the express processing area. There, your QR code is verified, credencial checked, and you are handed your laser printed, custom calligraphy, Compostela and Distance Certificate(s).

I estimate the total contact time at about one minute, versus the current 7 - 10 minutes per pilgrim at the counter.

Groups are still handled offline. I do not know if automated processing will be extended to groups, but it DOES make sense.

When greeted by security, pilgrims without QR codes, smartphones, lacking internet skills, or simply preferring the old method, would be sent to the standard queue.

The current issue is the need to raise this automated option and process to senior levels of decision making, in the Archbishop’s administration in Santiago. We must remember that we are talking about a two thousand year old church that does not do change well, or rush to adopt technology. Local senior leadership behaves much the same way. We need to be patient.

I am NOT involved in developing this option or getting it approved, and I am only reporting what I know to be correct. I will not name names or positions.

My sense is that if someone screws up the courage to approach senior leadership, this new process MIGHT be useable sometime this season. Personally, I prefer testing and then running a beta in the off season, after September, when the daily numbers are low.

My recommendation would be to hit the ground running, with the new processes, for the 2020 season, as a full performance test, preparatory to the coming surge in the 2021 Holy Year. Current estimates are that we could well see 650,000 or more pilgrims in 2021.

Hope this helps. I also hope this does not annoy anyone in administration who might see, or be told of my post. But, I thought this was news worth reporting.
 
Last edited:

Island

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CP (2019)
Florida Trail
Appalachain Trail
Thank you so much for this update, @t2andreo. May I please ask: if a Pilgrim receives the Compostella at 18:00 approximately, is their name read at a pilgrims mass this year (given ongoign renovations) and - if so - what Mass, when and where? Kind thanks.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Thank you so much for this update, @t2andreo. May I please ask: if a Pilgrim receives the Compostella at 18:00 approximately, is their name read at a pilgrims mass this year (given ongoign renovations) and - if so - what Mass, when and where? Kind thanks.
Actual names have not been read for perhaps a decade. There are simply too many names.

Presently, the countries pilgrims are from, and where they started are read as a summary... “today (yesterday actually) starting from Pamplona, we welcomed x pilgrims from country A, y from country B, etc. It still takes too long to get through it.

Hope this helps
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Brave new world :rolleyes:
It should be noted that NO ONE likes implementing automated support for Compostela processing. However, there appears to be no alternative.

Also, remember that NO ACTION TO MOVE FORWARD with this idea has been taken. Personally, I am not holding my breath. We shall see what happens.

There is no amount of human resource or a physical plant large enough to accommodate the possible surge of arriving expected pilgrims for 2021. On a July day in 2018, where we processed some 2,800 pilgrims, in 2021 we might expect nearly 6,000 arriving pilgrims.

There is practically and simply no viable alternative, at least in my professional opinion. I used to work on process engineering projects, among other things, during my career.

Please bear in mind that all ideas that I am presently aware of call for maintaining the preset, totally manual process, in parallel because automated processing support will NEVER appeal to 100% of arriving pilgrims.

This, current experiment, is being approached with extreme reluctance.

Hope this helps.
 
Last edited:

The Kolbist

Member
Camino(s) past & future
past: Frances, inland Portuguese, Fatima
future: Del Norte, coastal Porugues, Englis
so basically, theres a location-based app for the pilgrim office. When you are in the vicinity of Santiago, the app is triggerred and will give you the option to put in your details plus it will give you the approximate wait times for that day so it can give you an option on what time you are willing to go to the PO. After scanning the QR code at the gate done by the security, that same action will trigger the printing of the compostelas and the distancia certificates if so desired. The QR scanning could probably tell you which staff or booth you can pick up the certificates. Is this how it is? cool
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
so basically, theres a location-based app for the pilgrim office. When you are in the vicinity of Santiago, the app is triggerred and will give you the option to put in your details plus it will give you the approximate wait times for that day so it can give you an option on what time you are willing to go to the PO. After scanning the QR code at the gate done by the security, that same action will trigger the printing of the compostelas and the distancia certificates if so desired. The QR scanning could probably tell you which staff or booth you can pick up the certificates. Is this how it is? cool
The precise workflow has not been thought through. Plus, and I must emphasize this point, THIS INTERNET CAPABILITY CURRENTLY ONLY EXISTS IN A TEST MODE, and OFFLINE.

There is no way to know if and when it will ever become operational. I was simply sharing what MIGHT BE not what is.

Hope this clarifies that, while there is some cause for cautious optimism, we are FAR from actual deployment and use. If I learn more, I will share what I can, without revealing confidences, or being chased out of town by the Inquisition... LOL
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
There is practically and simply no viable alternative,
More people and more desks?
I'm in the old-fashioned brigade, thinking automation would be a very sad thing - while also understanding the immense strain on the present system that that many more people will cause.
Already it's noticeable, and we're a year and a half out.

The main thing I'm grumpy about, though, is what the volunteers have to deal with, even now.
People are not patient enough to wait in a long line - as if it is their right as pilgrims not to suffer a little (or something). One volunteer I spoke with yesterday said it was a very difficult day as people were occasionally nasty, mouthing off and blaming the volunteers for the lines.

So...heads up everyone. And a plea for tolerance and a bit of patience. You will wait, no matter what. It won't kill you. Enjoy the company, and spread a little love while you share the last communal experience of your camino. Being nasty and grumpy is definitely a choice.
(And...;)...if the camino has not taught you that yet...well maybe you have to walk again.:cool:)
 

Meshewszon

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese
I am not sure if I might be re-inventing the wheel - how about collecting a numbered ticket on arrival at the PO and a webcam on-line so you could check up on progress and in the meantime get a bite to eat, sight see or whatever until your number comes up? Those who want to wait can do so. Me? Maybe a nice cup of coffee or a beer......

Of course you might need a roll of numbers 300,000+ long based on last year's numbers:p
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
More people and more desks?
I'm in the old-fashioned brigade, thinking automation would be a very sad thing - while also understanding the immense strain on the present system that that many more people will cause.
Already it's noticeable, and we're a year and a half out.

The main thing I'm grumpy about, though, is what the volunteers have to deal with, even now.
People are not patient enough to wait in a long line - as if it is their right as pilgrims not to suffer a little (or something). One volunteer I spoke with yesterday said it was a very difficult day as people were occasionally nasty, mouthing off and blaming the volunteers for the lines.

So...heads up everyone. And a plea for tolerance and a bit of patience. You will wait, no matter what. It won't kill you. Enjoy the company, and spread a little love while you share the last communal experience of your camino. Being nasty and grumpy is definitely a choice.
(And...;)...if the camino has not taught you that yet...well maybe you have to walk again.:cool:)
Maybe your last paragraph could be recorded, and also projected on the walls where pilgrims line up to claim their Compostelas...
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
Maybe your last paragraph could be recorded, and also projected on the walls where pilgrims line up to claim their Compostelas...
Hahahaha! Good idea.🤣
Ask @t2andreo. He could probably arrange it!;)

I am not sure if I might be re-inventing the wheel - how about collecting a numbered ticket on arrival at the PO and a webcam on-line so you could check up on progress and in the meantime get a bite to eat, sight see or whatever until your number comes up? Those who want to wait can do so. Me? Maybe a nice cup of coffee or a beer......
This is actually a grand idea - has anyone thought of it?
 

alhartman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2005 2007 Frances
2016 Leon to Santiago
Thank you so much for your service!

And as a former Information Systems Project Manager I would pretty much echo your cautious optimism. There are way too many barriers for success with automation on this: reluctant management, only 24 months to go, (no real time for proper testing, modification, change control, user acceptance, etc). And like Y2K there is an ABSOLUTE deadline!! Project Managers dirty little secret is some 90% are over budget or late.
Then there is the infrastructure reliability needed, 100% up-time--redundant servers, storage, networks. So bit it almost need an IS department.

And as you have done process engineering, you know how hard it is to design any system when the maximum (2800/day) is so much bigger than the mean (say 1000/day).

From back-of-the-envelope on your numbers. At 6 minutes interaction per compostela and open for 12 hours, each lane/volunteer can process 120 in a day. So 50 lanes needed for a Holy Year. (I can count only about 10 lanes in the website picture so do not know how you did 2800 in July 2018.)
Were I stuck with this project, my quick solution would be to use the existing known manual process, open a second overflow location for everyone starting from inside OCebrerio (maybe 40%) or even parse to a third location (all caminos except the CF)

Numbers are staggering!! Frankly, I cannot even fathom the amount of effort to train all the volunteers needed for 6000 per day. Actually I cannot even comprehend the number of porta-potties needed.

But we could not have even made it this long without you and others volunteering your time and talent.
Thank you for your service
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
Thank you so much for your service!

And as a former Information Systems Project Manager I would pretty much echo your cautious optimism. There are way too many barriers for success with automation on this: reluctant management, only 24 months to go, (no real time for proper testing, modification, change control, user acceptance, etc). And like Y2K there is an ABSOLUTE deadline!! Project Managers dirty little secret is some 90% are over budget or late.
Then there is the infrastructure reliability needed, 100% up-time--redundant servers, storage, networks. So bit it almost need an IS department.

And as you have done process engineering, you know how hard it is to design any system when the maximum (2800/day) is so much bigger than the mean (say 1000/day).

From back-of-the-envelope on your numbers. At 6 minutes interaction per compostela and open for 12 hours, each lane/volunteer can process 120 in a day. So 50 lanes needed for a Holy Year. (I can count only about 10 lanes in the website picture so do not know how you did 2800 in July 2018.)
Were I stuck with this project, my quick solution would be to use the existing known manual process, open a second overflow location for everyone starting from inside OCebrerio (maybe 40%) or even parse to a third location (all caminos except the CF)

Numbers are staggering!! Frankly, I cannot even fathom the amount of effort to train all the volunteers needed for 6000 per day. Actually I cannot even comprehend the number of porta-potties needed.

But we could not have even made it this long without you and others volunteering your time and talent.
Thank you for your service
Your logic is convincing. Multi locations could indeed solve the problem, provided they were well signposted. It would be difficult to stream the pilgrims from the various start points though. I really do think your multi-location suggestion is most workable, superior to a hi-tech option.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
More people and more desks?
I'm in the old-fashioned brigade, thinking automation would be a very sad thing - while also understanding the immense strain on the present system that that many more people will cause.
Already it's noticeable, and we're a year and a half out.

The main thing I'm grumpy about, though, is what the volunteers have to deal with, even now.
People are not patient enough to wait in a long line - as if it is their right as pilgrims not to suffer a little (or something). One volunteer I spoke with yesterday said it was a very difficult day as people were occasionally nasty, mouthing off and blaming the volunteers for the lines.

So...heads up everyone. And a plea for tolerance and a bit of patience. You will wait, no matter what. It won't kill you. Enjoy the company, and spread a little love while you share the last communal experience of your camino. Being nasty and grumpy is definitely a choice.
(And...;)...if the camino has not taught you that yet...well maybe you have to walk again.:cool:)
I, for one, totally agree with you. I usually do. Knowing you personally, I also understand where you are ‘coming from.’

But, paid staff are too expensive. After the hugely expensive multi-year renovations, the Cathedral does not have the funds. The Pilgrim Offices goes generate revenues. But, I am reliable informed that revenues do not cover present hosts, let alone adding more staff.

If you ever ran or managed a business, you know that paid staff are almost always your largest cost. This remains true in this case.

Adding more volunteers is similarly something they cannot afford. The policy has been to provide volunteers with a place to stay for free. They bear all other expenses, like transportation to and from, and food.

Presently, there is a five person cap on volunteers as this is the number of bedrooms they have in the former vicarage of the 800 year old Convento de Santa Clara de Asis. There are plans to develop additional volunteer housing. But, these plans are also on the “back burner” do to financial issues...

Each year, the office DOES benefit from large numbers of local volunteers who have housing elsewhere. However, these folks are generally not available until schools get out in another month or so.

Also, I have been reliably informed that there have been cost overruns, as there have been a few costly surprises that had to be dealt with. If you have ever renovated a home, I have, this is a routine occurrence.

In fact, further renovations at the Pilgrim Office have been stopped temporarily as funding had to be shifted to finishing the Cathedral. The work underway that was interrupted affects group processing and volunteer capacity. You cannot see the stopped bits now.

I understand this, and accept it. Remember, the Pilgrim Office is a bureau of the Cathedral administration.

So, as VN says above, we are all in this together. So, until a viable solution is developed and deployed, we need to chill.

More importantly, and IMHO, we need to spread the word to be gentle to each other and to the people who are trying to provide us a service. Live the Camino.

Hope this helps.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Your logic is convincing. Multi locations could indeed solve the problem, provided they were well signposted. It would be difficult to stream the pilgrims from the various start points though. I really do think your multi-location suggestion is most workable, superior to a hi-tech option.
Thank you Kirkie. But the solution is not mine. I merely reported what I learned or saw these past two weeks.

Local staff, many of whom have relevant university degrees in math, engineering or computer areas, conceived the solution. While I can, have, and will make process flow and signage suggestions, I am in no way involved in developing and rolling this out.

In the end, I am merely a volunteer. I do what I am asked to do, cheerfully and without complaints. That is why I am here.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
Thank you Kirkie. But the solution is not mine. I merely reported what I learned or saw these past two weeks.

Local staff, many of whom have relevant university degrees in math, engineering or computer areas, conceived the solution. While I can, have, and will make process flow and signage suggestions, I am in no way involved in developing and rolling this out.

In the end, I am merely a volunteer. I do what I am asked to do, cheerfully and without complaints. That is why I am here.
I do appreciate what you say, t2andreo. My reply was to alhartman's suggestion. I quite understand that logistics are very complex, and cost is a real factor, one way or another. I will see the change myself this summer from my 2013 arrival in Santiago, if and when I complete my planned Camino Ingles...
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
The location and process are different. But the workflow remains the same, despite having more than double the number of pilgrims from 2013.

I suppose the issue is that 2021 Pilgrim volumes will likely double the 320,000 from 2018. Personally, my estimate is 650k, low end, and 750k on the high end.

We shall see. I do not plan to walk a Camino in 2021. Rather, I hope to volunteer for one month from Semana Santa, then return in mid-July for my customary month at tippy top peak volume time.

Hope this helps.
 
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Robert C. Deming

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francais 2017, Portugues 2018
I have been working as a volunteer since 6 May. My final day, this time, is 20 May.

I return again to work my annual one-month volunteer stint from 15 July - 12 August.

Every time I come here, I learn something new. There are some tidbits I thought I would share.

1. The arrival rates and pilgrim queues now, in mid-May are near what I am used to seeing in mid-July. The queue to get a Compostela seems to get to two hours each day about 13:00.

2. That long queue is usually worked down to a < 30-minute wait by about 17:00 or so.

3. We had been suggesting that pilgrims consider coming back at opening, 08:00 the next morning. However, that notion went south on Tuesday, when some 100 pilgrims decided to avoid the lines, and “come early.” In addition, the French now have a Catholic Mass at 08:00 in the Pilgrim Office chapel. After that Mass, a couple dozen newly arrived pilgrims get on the queue for Compostelas.

4. Presently, the best advice to avoid overly long queues is to come between 17:00 and 19:30. After then, security is likely to close the outer doors / gates so the paid staff can complete processing all the pilgrims then inside, and get home to their families at the 21:00 official closing time.

5. Chatting with staff over the past week or more, I was informed of some planned changes, as part of the effort to ramp up in time for the coming 2021 Holy Year. Here is what I have been reliably told or personally seen:

5.1 I was informed that they were planning on having Wi-Fi for pilgrims. My immediate reply was that: (a) they were crazy as pilgrims would NEVER leave the premises, and (b) this ONLY made sense if the open Wi-Fi was to support automated Compostela processing.

5.2 This week, I learned, and was shown, a prototype web page to collect all the “estadillo” data via the internet, before the pilgrim arrived at the office. This is the form you complete at the counter, while staff reviews your credencial and finds your Latin name.

The internet application I was shown collected the information then gave a pop-up telling you the likely Latin first name and asking for concurrence. If you did not agree, you were prompted to key in the name YOU wanted as your given name.

Once past this, another pop-up asked if you wanted a distance certificate (@ €3,00). Once past this, the system would produce a QR code and and an ‘on or after’ reporting time.

Returning on time, you would show the QR code to security. Once past security, you would be immediately sent to the express processing area. There, your QR code is verified, credencial checked, and you are handed your laser printed, custom calligraphy, Compostela and Distance Certificate(s).

I estimate the total contact time at about one minute, versus the current 7 - 10 minutes per pilgrim at the counter.

Groups are still handled offline. I do not know if automated processing will be extended to groups, but it DOES make sense.

When greeted by security, pilgrims without QR codes, smartphones, lacking internet skills, or simply preferring the old method, would be sent to the standard queue.

The current issue is the need to raise this automated option and process to senior levels of decision making, in the Archbishop’s administration in Santiago. We must remember that we are talking about a two thousand year old church that does not do change well, or rush to adopt technology. Local senior leadership behaves much the same way. We need to be patient.

I am NOT involved in developing this option or getting it approved, and I am only reporting what I know to be correct. I will not name names or positions.

My sense is that if someone screws up the courage to approach senior leadership, this new process MIGHT be useable sometime this season. Personally, I prefer testing and then running a beta in the off season, after September, when the daily numbers are low.

My recommendation would be to hit the ground running, with the new processes, for the 2020 season, as a full performance test, preparatory to the coming surge in the 2021 Holy Year. Current estimates are that we could well see 650,000 or more pilgrims in 2021.

Hope this helps. I also hope this does not annoy anyone in administration who might see, or be told of my post. But, I thought this was news worth reporting.
Personally, I found the compostela underwhelming and didn't ask for one on my second trip into Santiago. But the number of pilgrims expected next year is staggering and those coming in a holy year will certainly want a compostela. I hope the volunteer staff can be expanded, I'd like to serve there sometime.. When I can't walk anymore, perhaps, or when I can take off more than 6 weeks!
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Hahahaha! Good idea.🤣
Ask @t2andreo. He could probably arrange it!;)


This is actually a grand idea - has anyone thought of it?
I actually suggested that one three years ago. I can still hear the laughter resonating in my ears...

Like Kenny Rodgers sang “...you have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away...”

Feel my ‘pain.’ Knowing how to solve problems like this and being able to explain to others who just do not SEE the tsunami coming at them is VERY frustrating...
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Personally, I found the compostela underwhelming and didn't ask for one on my second trip into Santiago. But the number of pilgrims expected next year is staggering and those coming in a holy year will certainly want a compostela. I hope the volunteer staff can be expanded, I'd like to serve there sometime.. When I can't walk anymore, perhaps, or when I can take off more than 6 weeks!
When you are interested, search my post on “How to Volunteer at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.” It contains everything you need to know to ask to volunteer. Good luck.
 

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2010j, Primitivo (2013), Plata (2014 + 2015), Salvador (2016), Torres 2017), Portugues (2018)
When you are interested, search my post on “How to Volunteer at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.” It contains everything you need to know to ask to volunteer. Good luck.
Thank you for this! Is there an age limit?
 

laurentbass

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
June 13th, 2019
Since I am new and first time planning my Camino, What is a distance certificate? Is this the normal certificate one receives with stamped passport?
 

NorthernLight

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Since I am new and first time planning my Camino, What is a distance certificate? Is this the normal certificate one receives with stamped passport?
It's an optional certificate, costs €3, whereas the Compostela certificate is free. Donations welcome. It's issued at the same time, if you want it.
 

AndreaCT

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2016 Camino Frances to Leon
Fall 2017 Camino Frances to Finisterre
May 2019 Portuguese
I have been working as a volunteer since 6 May. My final day, this time, is 20 May.

I return again to work my annual one-month volunteer stint from 15 July - 12 August.

Every time I come here, I learn something new. There are some tidbits I thought I would share.

1. The arrival rates and pilgrim queues now, in mid-May are near what I am used to seeing in mid-July. The queue to get a Compostela seems to get to two hours each day about 13:00.

2. That long queue is usually worked down to a < 30-minute wait by about 17:00 or so.

3. We had been suggesting that pilgrims consider coming back at opening, 08:00 the next morning. However, that notion went south on Tuesday, when some 100 pilgrims decided to avoid the lines, and “come early.” In addition, the French now have a Catholic Mass at 08:00 in the Pilgrim Office chapel. After that Mass, a couple dozen newly arrived pilgrims get on the queue for Compostelas.

4. Presently, the best advice to avoid overly long queues is to come between 17:00 and 19:30. After then, security is likely to close the outer doors / gates so the paid staff can complete processing all the pilgrims then inside, and get home to their families at the 21:00 official closing time.

5. Chatting with staff over the past week or more, I was informed of some planned changes, as part of the effort to ramp up in time for the coming 2021 Holy Year. Here is what I have been reliably told or personally seen:

5.1 I was informed that they were planning on having Wi-Fi for pilgrims. My immediate reply was that: (a) they were crazy as pilgrims would NEVER leave the premises, and (b) this ONLY made sense if the open Wi-Fi was to support automated Compostela processing.

5.2 This week, I learned, and was shown, a prototype web page to collect all the “estadillo” data via the internet, before the pilgrim arrived at the office. This is the form you complete at the counter, while staff reviews your credencial and finds your Latin name.

The internet application I was shown collected the information then gave a pop-up telling you the likely Latin first name and asking for concurrence. If you did not agree, you were prompted to key in the name YOU wanted as your given name.

Once past this, another pop-up asked if you wanted a distance certificate (@ €3,00). Once past this, the system would produce a QR code and and an ‘on or after’ reporting time.

Returning on time, you would show the QR code to security. Once past security, you would be immediately sent to the express processing area. There, your QR code is verified, credencial checked, and you are handed your laser printed, custom calligraphy, Compostela and Distance Certificate(s).

I estimate the total contact time at about one minute, versus the current 7 - 10 minutes per pilgrim at the counter.

Groups are still handled offline. I do not know if automated processing will be extended to groups, but it DOES make sense.

When greeted by security, pilgrims without QR codes, smartphones, lacking internet skills, or simply preferring the old method, would be sent to the standard queue.

The current issue is the need to raise this automated option and process to senior levels of decision making, in the Archbishop’s administration in Santiago. We must remember that we are talking about a two thousand year old church that does not do change well, or rush to adopt technology. Local senior leadership behaves much the same way. We need to be patient.

I am NOT involved in developing this option or getting it approved, and I am only reporting what I know to be correct. I will not name names or positions.

My sense is that if someone screws up the courage to approach senior leadership, this new process MIGHT be useable sometime this season. Personally, I prefer testing and then running a beta in the off season, after September, when the daily numbers are low.

My recommendation would be to hit the ground running, with the new processes, for the 2020 season, as a full performance test, preparatory to the coming surge in the 2021 Holy Year. Current estimates are that we could well see 650,000 or more pilgrims in 2021.

Hope this helps. I also hope this does not annoy anyone in administration who might see, or be told of my post. But, I thought this was news worth reporting.
Thanks Tom for your insight and sharing of information. It was a pleasure to meet you last night at Sybilles!
 

alhartman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2005 2007 Frances
2016 Leon to Santiago
t2andreo: Thank you for all the updates. From the constraints you mention in #6 and #18, my opinion would be that automation is the ONLY way to go. But even if that is successful and can bring each interaction down to 2 minutes, PO would still need to be 17 lanes. And both the Quality Control (stamps/day, distance, etc) and the friendly interaction with the kind volunteers, would suffer.
I can see why none of the volunteers is thrilled about this. My heart goes out to all of you who will have to deal with this change. Maybe we are at peak Compostela??
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Thank you so much for your service!

And as a former Information Systems Project Manager I would pretty much echo your cautious optimism. There are way too many barriers for success with automation on this: reluctant management, only 24 months to go, (no real time for proper testing, modification, change control, user acceptance, etc). And like Y2K there is an ABSOLUTE deadline!! Project Managers dirty little secret is some 90% are over budget or late.
Then there is the infrastructure reliability needed, 100% up-time--redundant servers, storage, networks. So bit it almost need an IS department.

And as you have done process engineering, you know how hard it is to design any system when the maximum (2800/day) is so much bigger than the mean (say 1000/day).

From back-of-the-envelope on your numbers. At 6 minutes interaction per compostela and open for 12 hours, each lane/volunteer can process 120 in a day. So 50 lanes needed for a Holy Year. (I can count only about 10 lanes in the website picture so do not know how you did 2800 in July 2018.)
Were I stuck with this project, my quick solution would be to use the existing known manual process, open a second overflow location for everyone starting from inside OCebrerio (maybe 40%) or even parse to a third location (all caminos except the CF)

Numbers are staggering!! Frankly, I cannot even fathom the amount of effort to train all the volunteers needed for 6000 per day. Actually I cannot even comprehend the number of porta-potties needed.

But we could not have even made it this long without you and others volunteering your time and talent.
Thank you for your service
There are 14 hard-cabled counter positions, and another 4 in the separate group office. If they shut group processing down temporarily, they can employ up to 18 networked workstations. The technology developments I mentioned above include expanding processing throughout.

Online access provides resources like Google Maps, translation capability for one-off languages, and look up tables for geographic information, route verification, and Latin name lookup.

In a really serious situation, they have moved in tables to process Compostelas manually, saving the data entry until later. This happens fairly regularly during the summer months.

It also presupposes expert volunteers who know virtually everything contained in the databases by rote. Face it, when you have pilgrims walking essentially the same routes for > 1,000 years, things tend to get repetitious. We have been blessed by having faculty from the several local seminaries who are subject matter experts.

The ONLY way they can keep their heads above water and prevent pilgrims from rioting is to seek local volunteers from the closed for the summer seminaries, local universities, and even older high school students seeking to earn credit for performing community service. It REALLY is an “all hands to the pumps” scenario.

Fortunately, among the volunteers and relatively (at that time of year) paid staff, it regularly becomes almost a party. We help and support each other to address the shared burden. But after my daily shift, I am well and truly knackered.

Part of the reason I always volunteer from mid-July to mid-August is that this is the statistical peak arrival time for the season. The numbers are truly epic. This is when they most need volunteers, and when they are most sincere I appreciated. So, I am drawn back.

I may have mentioned above, somewhere, that I am intentionally not planning to walk in 2021. Instead I will offer to volunteer for one month around Sana Santa...Holy Week & Easter. I would still plan to return for my summer month as already mentioned. It is my personal way of giving back, to show appreciation for everything the Camino has done for me.

Hope this clarifies.
 
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Walton

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
Hats off to all of the workers at the Pilgrim's office. You do a fantastic job. Just lining up waiting to be served is a real buzz and the time there invariably passes quickly.

Delicate topic warning - But I wonder how much the workload would be reduced if there was a crackdown on those bus tours that I've witnessed; the ones where you leave a town walking while the Pilgrim tourists have breakfast, only to arrive at another town only to see the same Pilgrims busily ordering lunch looking as fresh as a daisy. We left before they finished and somehow they passed us along the way.

I've seen drivers getting dozens of Compostelas stamped at the one place while the pilgrims wait on the bus looking out the window.

Surely, the Pilgrim's office must be aware of this and know the companies involved in this kind of tourism?

If this kind of activity is tolerated, perhaps the bus companies could issue special approved bus Credencials directly to their passengers? That would save the Pilgrim office quite a lot of work I would imagine.

Just a thought that may help ease the pressures the office is under during peak times.

Cheers

Graham
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Hats off to all of the workers at the Pilgrim's office. You do a fantastic job. Just lining up waiting to be served is a real buzz and the time there invariably passes quickly.

Delicate topic warning - But I wonder how much the workload would be reduced if there was a crackdown on those bus tours that I've witnessed; the ones where you leave a town walking while the Pilgrim tourists have breakfast, only to arrive at another town only to see the same Pilgrims busily ordering lunch looking as fresh as a daisy. We left before they finished and somehow they passed us along the way.

I've seen drivers getting dozens of Compostelas stamped at the one place while the pilgrims wait on the bus looking out the window.

Surely, the Pilgrim's office must be aware of this and know the companies involved in this kind of tourism?

If this kind of activity is tolerated, perhaps the bus companies could issue special approved bus Credencials directly to their passengers? That would save the Pilgrim office quite a lot of work I would imagine.

Just a thought that may help ease the pressures the office is under during peak times.

Cheers

Graham
We are aware of all manner of cheating that occurs. The problem is actually catching someone in the act. There are not enough resources to handle to workload that arrives, let alone going after cheats.

As I said, there is awareness, but also the realization that there is little that can be done.

There are technologies that would allow us to securely lock down doing a Camino and collecting stamps. But NO ONE wants to even put those ideas on paper. Think riveted-on fit-bit like wristbands that update from an automated mojone (solar powered) every Km. But, like I said, NO ONE wants to go there.

Given my briefings above, the current plan is to dramatically increase throughout using technology, hopefully over the next 18 months. Fingers crossed.

I keep waiting for someone to obtain blank Compostela and sell them online. Mind you, I personally think this is reprehensible. But given human nature, it is a matter of time.

Hope this helps the dialog.
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Thank you for this! Is there an age limit?
Not that I am aware of. I am 66. There are as many older folks as there are young ‘uns. The lower limit based on what I have seen over six years going this, is likely early 20’s.

You must have done a Camino... any Camino. Then follow the instructions in my post, mentioned above.

Hope this helps.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Something new to report this Friday morning. The queue is at three hours and holding. It is moving, but more pilgrims keep arriving.

Also, we are having ‘Galician Sunshine” aka, light drizzle. No one likes standing in the rain, waiting to get a Compostela.

This is a small idea of why the automated assist process is not an ”if” proposition, but a “when,” at least IMHO.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Well, the Galicia Sunshine has been coming an hour on and an hour off. It REALLY riles the waiting outside pilgrims. I sympathize but there is nothing I can do.
 
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alhartman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2005 2007 Frances
2016 Leon to Santiago
t2andreo: For the PO to cope so well with a 5 year doubling of compostela is truly amazing!! Most organizations cannot cope with that rate of change, let alone a NGO strapped for resources.

I would still be terrified at a doubling of traffic: think traffic, river flow, airport check-in, etc.

At least PO has the advantage of improving an antiquated process, so huge gains thru automation are possible.

From my experience, success of projects of this nature absolutely depend on having end users (pilgrims) and users (PO volunteers) heavily involved in the project from the beginning--and that 'management' listens and implements changes from their feedback. Management and Information Systems driven projects seem to fail more often than end user driven projects.

And I understand that 'no one' wants this automation, but in some cases, automation can actually improve the users (PO volunteers) experience. ie: if 3 of the current 7 minutes is taken up by data gathering/input from the 'estadillo' (assume that is not rewarding) and 4 minutes to greeting and interacting and sharing with the pilgrim (lotsa fun) then a successful automation will enhance the volunteer experience.

And there is something about the Camino that gives solutions!!
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
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The problem IMHO is not implementeing the technology. That is a near ‘no brainer.’ Rather the issue is the mere fact of change.

The men in charge...there is always a senior priest at the helm, typically likes the status quo. It is comfortable.

Then again, these very esteemed folks are not the ones who will have to face an increasingly frustrated and even angry client base if something is not done to effect radical process change.

When was shyly informed by staff that no one had the ‘guts’ to present this. I actually volunteered. While I may not have the Spanish, I have the experience briefing senior government officials during my career. This includes cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and even (one time) the, then serving US president.

These high-ranking people all have one thing in common. They ALL put their trousers on one leg at a time. I am not the least bit. Once ended by rank or power. If I am prepared, and can field questions, there is NO trepidation.

My offer to brief the pilgrim processing change was tabled when I said they would have to translate EVERYTHING I said, near verbatim. THAT causes heartburn.

As I have said above, we shall see what shakes out before I leave town next Friday.

Hope this helps.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
The problem IMHO is not implementeing the technology. That is a near ‘no brainer.’ Rather the issue is the mere fact of change.

The men in charge...there is always a senior priest at the helm, typically likes the status quo. It is comfortable.

Then again, these very esteemed folks are not the ones who will have to face an increasingly frustrated and even angry client base if something is not done to effect radical process change.

When was shyly informed by staff that no one had the ‘guts’ to present this. I actually volunteered. While I may not have the Spanish, I have the experience briefing senior government officials during my career. This includes cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and even (one time) the, then serving US president.

These high-ranking people all have one thing in common. They ALL put their trousers on one leg at a time. I am not the least bit. Once ended by rank or power. If I am prepared, and can field questions, there is NO trepidation.

My offer to brief the pilgrim processing change was tabled when I said they would have to translate EVERYTHING I said, near verbatim. THAT causes heartburn.

As I have said above, we shall see what shakes out before I leave town next Friday.

Hope this helps.
You are so cute, t2andreo! i look forward to the update!
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Gee, aw shucks! No one calls me cute... like ever! Thank you!

But, I think that, if I want to be invited back next year and beyond, it might be a good idea to fade into the wallpaper on this automation issue.

I will report what I can, when I can, and if I can. But, I am going to disengage from even looking like I am trying to influence or steer this.

At the end of the day, I am a volunteer, not a paid, or otherwise formally engaged consultant. So, I think I am going to bench myself on the automation issue.
 

Walton

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 Sjpp to Sdc. 2018 Lisbon to Sdc to Finisterre. Next up hopefully VDP or Del Norte.
These high-ranking people all have one thing in common. They ALL put their trousers on one leg at a time.
Ahem... I can put both trouser legs on at a time. Without tripping either I might add.

Should there be a special award for that? 🏆
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Ahem... I can put both trouser legs on at a time. Without tripping either I might add.

Should there be a special award for that? 🏆
That makes you a full-time fire fighter, an acrobat, or a gymnast, who can leap into his / trousers in one slick move. You have my admiration.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
Kater1na in another thread since closed, raised an interesting point about possibly altering the official starting place to be from your home. The thread was closed before I could post this... Here is my reply to her...

However, it has site import here, so I copied it.

“I agree with the “from home” on principle. But how do you explain THAT concept to a Korean, Chinese, New Zealander or Australian who comes literally from the other side of the globe, just to touch down in France or Spain?

As I mentioned in another thread recently, were I the Grand Poobah, this would have all been sorted years ago.

Like many others, I could analyze the numbers calculate a trend line and evaluate the effect of external factors like a new book or movie on annual volumes and the trend line. However, as a pilgrim (6x) and a volunteer annually since 2014, I have also learned these things about this process and Spain in general:

1. Status quo is comfortable, like an old pair of shoes or favorite sweater (pullover). It is to be preferred over change.

2. Change is sometimes no good, so why bother...

3. But, señor, we are the Catholic Church. We have been in continuous business since AD 33. During that time, we have seen it all. I think we know what we are doing.

4. (Vis #3) we have been awarding Compostelas for more than 1,000 years...

5. But señor, THIS is Spain, not the US or Germany... viva l’españa.!”

I understand and respect ALL of this. I LOVE this country, it’s people, the Camino, and the faith system I was born into. However, sometimes, frequently actually, it is very frustrating.

How can you grab a Cathedral by the lapels to try to shake some sense and reason into it, writ large?”
 
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Kathar1na

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Santiago and beyond (own way + voie de Tours + CF + Gulf of Biscay + English Channel)
Kater1na in another thread since closed, raised an interesting point about possibly altering the official starting place to be from your hone. The thread was closed before I could post this... Here is my reply to her... [...]
I agree with the “from home” on principle. But how do you explain THAT concept to a Korean, Chinese, New Zealander or Australian who comes literally from the other side of the globe, just to touch down in France or Spain?
Perhaps I did not express myself clearly when I wrote: „Maybe it helps to frame it like this: a Compostela is for anyone who has walked from home, [from] Pamplona, [from] Leon or [from] Ferreiros. Don’t focus on the silly numbers on the equally silly plethora of Xunta km markers. The renumbering and repositioning of these markers that happened a few years ago and the by now years of discussion about it and the contradictions and inaccuracies resulting from it in old and new threads and guidebooks and websites was the reason for the question in the other thread.

In 2019 and previous years, people received a Compostela when they started in SJPP, in Sarria, in Lugo, in Ferreiros or in Coruña (provided they are citizens of Coruña). That’s all there is to know.

I see only a superficial connection between the contemporary Compostela and Compostelas issued before the current revival. I don’t envy the Cathedral management: they are saddled with this system they created when numbers of recipients took off at the end of the last century. It’s difficult to know what they actually think about it or hope to achieve with it, other than the officially stated aim of recognising „an effort“.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
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I agree, I think. My suggestion would be to replace a number with the actual geographical place. So, 100 km goes away, per se, to be replaced by a requirement to have started from a specific place on each recognized route.

For example, this would be the town / city of:

Sarria on the Frances
Tui on the Portuguese
Monforte de Lemos on the Invierno
Ferrol on the Ingles...
... and so forth.

The present 200 km minimum limit for bicycle pilgrims could similarly go away, to be replaced by place names. For example, Ponferrada on the Frances / Invierno...

But, that is just my thought on how to settle the hair splitting issue. Others may differ on this.

We can always agree to disagree. I can tell you that ANYONE someone tries to monkey around with the 100 / 200 km inner limits, a rather broad scope of interested parties, groups and communities emerge to fight for their positions.
 
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Hermano Mayor

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
I stood in that line for two and a half hours a couple weeks ago Friday. So many people had all their gear with them as we inched along the meandering line. I thought it might be better to give each person a number when they enter and provide benches to sit on until their number is called.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I cannot disagree, except that when actually did make that suggestion some years ago, it was met with mild derision.

One thing I learned is that change comes VERY slowly in this business...
 

Rex

Pilgrim Trekker
Camino(s) past & future
SJPdP to Santiago (2013)
Lisboa to Santiago (2018)
Thanks, T2, for the insights and updates. Having completed two caminos, am contemplating volunteering in one of the albergues along the way, or in Santiago itself. My wife, not a walker, might want to join me in Santiago for a month. She is a retired CPA and systems expert. If we have our own accommodations, is there a need for volunteers at the PO in the late Summer, i.e., we wouldn’t need for them to provide a room for us, but we’d like to help out?
Am planning a walk from Geneva to SJPDP next, in 2020. Camino experiences have been life changing, and it’s been (for me) all about meeting other pilgrims.
Will read your thread on volunteering. Thanks again.
Bom Caminho.
 

Lindsay53

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning to walk April /May 19
I was in the Pilgrims Office yesterday (Friday) to get my compstela and saw the staff doing an outstanding job. A 2hr 30min wait was unavoidable given the crowds and the young woman who checked my credential and gave me my compostela was as charming and cheerful as if I had been her first pilgrim of the day. At the risk of fuelling the 'us and them' debate, maybe there should be lines exclusively for those who started their camino in St Jean or points east of Sarria. This would let those who have walked the furthest get processed a little faster.
 

alhartman

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2005 2007 Frances
2016 Leon to Santiago
Thank you Tom for a clear reminder of the culture around the camino and compostela. From the Pilgrim Office website statistics of 2018: 47% of the compostela went to Spanish speakers, 15% to English, 9% to German, 8% to Italian, 6% to Portuguese, 3% to French.
With this Forum being skewed to English, I find it easy to remember that we are a huge minority among the stakeholders.
As much as I would love to see process changes to reflect the capacity changes, I am going to keep reciting my mother-in-laws mantra:
Not my monkey, Not my circus.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
I was in the Pilgrims Office yesterday (Friday) to get my compstela and saw the staff doing an outstanding job. A 2hr 30min wait was unavoidable given the crowds and the young woman who checked my credential and gave me my compostela was as charming and cheerful as if I had been her first pilgrim of the day. At the risk of fuelling the 'us and them' debate, maybe there should be lines exclusively for those who started their camino in St Jean or points east of Sarria. This would let those who have walked the furthest get processed a little faster.
That suggestion has been raised many times. The essential problem is that it is unenforceable, it is my experience that people will do whatever is necessary to get on the “best” line.
 

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