First published Friday, February 21, 2014
Tomorrow sees the start of Wales Tourism Week for 2014. Over the course of the next nine days, the industry in Wales, from North to South, East to West, will have an opportunity to demonstrate why it is so valuable to the Welsh economy and why it is important that we do properly value the sector.
Recent figures have suggested that tourism in Wales contributes £4.2bn to the Welsh economy. This is not a small figure by any means. It’s not just about visitors coming to the country and spending money however. It is about people who live here, working in the industry, earning money to support themselves and their families, pay for their homes, their car, their food and indeed their own holidays. We often seem to overlook the people who actually make tourism happen when we talk about the industry. We talk about businesses, and we talk broadly about staff, but do we really stop to think about how these people, working for these businesses, make a real difference?
Whilst the economy is beginning to recover, slowly, there remain a number of challenges for the industry. Funding for local authority tourism teams throughout Wales has been reduced in many areas, removed completely in some. Other organisations, like the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, have also had to make budgetary savings, which potentially has an impact on their provision to the visitor.
However in amongst all this comes opportunity. The tourism industry in Wales operates predominantly through SME and Micro Businesses, and there is a wealth of experience, knowledge and enthusiasm within the sector. Even in tough times, the industry shows resilience and continues to strive forward to meet and anticipate the needs of the visitor, whilst looking to secure future prosperity through the development of new products and services.
During Wales Tourism Week, we will be highlighting the facts and figures around the industry here in Pembrokeshire. We will be looking at some of our members and sharing what they do. Above all, we will be making sure that we do our bit to raise the profile of the sector, and raise awareness of it amongst other sectors. An architect may not appreciate how they are affected by tourism, but they will no doubt get work on occasion designing extensions to guest houses or hotels. A petrol station owner may not see how they play a part in tourism, but they do, whether it is fuelling the visitors vehicles, or the delivery vans for the local butcher supplying bacon and sausages.
What is crucial during Wales Tourism Week, as it is year round, is to get the message home to our locally elected representatives, our Welsh Government Assembly Members and our Westminster MPs that the industry must be supported, valued and understood. It will never respond to direction from policy makers or strategists insisting that things are done a particular way to achieve a certain goal, especially when there is a perception that those making those decisions do not fully appreciate or understand how the industry works. It will however respond to people asking sensible questions, listening to the answers and then using that information to develop long term structures and strategies that will enable the industry to develop, grow and prosper.
Proper support through adequately funded marketing campaigns for the country and the regions, backed by interested and knowledgeable people working on the ground, in the industry, sharing their knowledge and experience will provide a strong and robust structure for the future. That way, each and every individual whether they operate a guesthouse, theme park or a cafe, can be sure that they are valued, the work they do is appreciated, and the results will be seen in strong visitors numbers and an even stronger contribution to the Welsh economy.