What price tourism in Wales?

First published Tuesday, October 01, 2013

As public sector ‘savings’ continue to be made, and local authorities and government departments across the country feel the effects of this, it would seem at times that little thought is given on the impact of this on an industry that spans a number of departmental responsibilities.

The structure of tourism support across Wales has been under review once again in recent months, and the outcome of that is due to be made clear this week. The uncertainty that this review has brought with it has not helped the industry, and neither has a similarly uncertain feel through Visit Wales.

In May this year, the Welsh Government launched the new tourism strategy – Partnership for Growth – 2013-2020, and a supporting action plan for the first three years of the strategy. There are a number of commendable aspirations within the strategy, although until such time as the review of the Regional Tourism Partnership is completed, the future of organisations beneath them such as Trade Associations potentially hangs in the balance.

There are further changes on the horizon as well in that organisations that represent the collective voice of the industry across Wales, are seeing changes to the way in which they are funded. The Wales Tourism Alliance, the recognised voice of the industry in the country will in future have to tender to receive financial support for the activity it undertakes in terms of business led communications and feedback. The terms of this contract are yet to be determined, and the value of it has already been stated as significantly less than in previous years.

The industry is worth over £3bn to the economy in Wales, and yet the expenditure to support it is minimal in comparison. Marketing campaigns come and go, and the impact of them at times is unclear. Tourism currently sits within the Enterprise, Science and Transport portfolio in Welsh Government, but receives a very small allocation of that departmental budget. The various financial schemes available to provide support for the industry, such as the Tourism Investment Support Scheme are being reduced year on year, and yet the industry is expected to deliver a growth in tourism earnings of 10% by the end of the current strategy.

The industry has the potential to deliver huge growth, both in terms of jobs and income. There are many creative entrepreneurs amongst our tourism business community, and with a continual development of new businesses and expansion and investment in existing businesses as well there is much that can be achieved. However none of this will happen unless proper, long term, well thought out support is provided for the industry, and it is freed from being a political pawn.  Industry representative bodies such as the Wales Tourism Alliance, and Trade Associations across the country are vital to providing this support, and must be listened to by those in power if the desired outcomes of strategies and more are to be achieved. The industry is hugely valuable. It is time it was truly valued.

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