Welsh Government launches Tourism Strategy……. will it deliver?

First published June 17, 2013

Today (June 17th) has seen the launch of the Welsh Government Strategy for Tourism 2013 – 2020: Partnership for Growth.

The Minister for the Economy, Transport and Science, Edwina Hart said as part of the launch, “The time is right to set a new direction for tourism in Wales that will support growth in the sector during the coming years and which reflects the changing internal and external influences affecting the industry. I asked the Tourism Sector Panel to prepare a refreshed strategy and action plan.  I have accepted the Panel’s final recommendations and today I am launching Wales’s new Tourism Strategy for 2013-2020.”

This long awaited document has arrived in conjunction with a Framework Action Plan that supports years 1 – 3 of the strategy. There are essentially five key themes or areas that the strategy is built around, namely People Development, Product Development, Promoting the Brand, Profitable Performance and Place Building. There is also, of course, a stated vision, goal and ambition.

It is at this point that perhaps that the industry as a whole may start to ask a few questions. The vision is commendable: “Wales will provide the warmest of welcomes, outstanding quality, excellent value for money and memorable, authentic experiences to every visitor”. All makes perfect sense, and perhaps could be said to summarise quite neatly what many in the sector are already doing.

Equally the goal is again clear and direct, if ever so slightly predictable: “The goal is for tourism to grow in a sustainable way and to make an increasing contribution to the economic, social and environmental well-being of Wales”. It is fair to say that the industry has been striving to do this for some time, and in certain areas of Wales is already making a significant contribution in all senses, and continues to do so despite the economic challenges the country faces.

Last but not least then, the ambition. The document states “The ambition is to grow tourism earnings in Wales by 10% or more by 2020″. Underneath this statement it goes on to clarify this point: ‘To achieve real growth in tourism earnings of 10% will not be easily achieved. If achieved, it will represent growth in numerical terms of at least 28% and will require not only an increase in performance compared to recent years, but also the allocation of realistic resources comparable to those of Wales’s key competitors”.

Interesting statistics. Without the clarification, it would be very easy to dismiss the concept of growing tourism earnings by 10% as somewhat laughable. For many however, it is not a particularly ambitious statement, especially when you consider that this is over a seven year period. The references to such growth requiring increased performance and allocation to realistic resources is key, and where there are potentially more questions raised than answered.

Chairman of Pembrokeshire Tourism, Tim Brace shared his thoughts on the strategy this afternoon. “For the strategy to make a significant difference to the Welsh economy, there are two key points that must be considered. Firstly the industry must be taken seriously by Welsh Government and all levels beneath that, and secondly the strategy must be supported by adequate investment and resource allocation to ensure that the delivery of the action plan can happen. It is a balancing act between ensuring sufficient footfall to attractions and destinations, whilst also ensuring that there is a suitable infrastructure to get visitors there in the first place.”

There are many who will echo Tim’s sentiments, not least a significant number of our members. At times it does seem as if the industry is regarded as something of a ‘summer job’ by many, and not a valuable contributor to both the local and national economy. This is at times perpetuated by the industry itself, but the time is ripe to change this. The overarching theme of the new strategy is partnership, and whilst it may been dismissed by some, or seen as obvious by others, it is, in my view, the way forward.

Partnership at all levels, and in all sectors of the industry is key to the delivery of any kind of strategy. Whether it is local businesses working together to provide a broader and more interesting offer for the visitor, or organisations such as ourselves at Pembrokeshire Tourism working with Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, the days and times of working in isolation are effectively over.

Funds are limited, whether public sector or otherwise, and to make most effective use of the resources available, it is vital that people and businesses work together. This means changing attitudes and perceptions and embracing new ways of working. There will be more scrutiny and comment on the strategy over the coming days, weeks and months, and no doubt more questions raised as businesses and various tourism bodies look to determine how the strategy is to be delivered.

I firmly believe that here in Pembrokeshire, we can set a strong example. We have already shown a commitment to partnership working with the launch of the Destination Pembrokeshire Management plan last week. We have numerous successful, profitable businesses, who continue to grow, invest and develop their people and product, whilst looking to promote themselves and the area, with a definite sense of pride in the “place” of Pembrokeshire. We lead the way in terms of destination management partnerships in South West Wales, if not Wales as a whole. The Welsh Government strategy is perhaps setting out some of the bones of the vision for the industry, it is now down to the industry to add the flesh and perhaps a couple more bones too, by proving that it already knows what is needed, and lobbying to ensure that appropriate support and investment is provided.

Read the Welsh Government Strategy for Tourism 2013 – 2020: Partnership for Growth here.

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