Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goodbye Tourists

This impressive building is the purpose built Tourist Information Centre at Welshpool. I could well have been Chairman of the local authority when the decision was taken to build it. It seems to me a crying shame that Powys County Council intend to close it down, as part of a policy of withdrawal from the provision of information to tourists. Bearing in mind the importance of tourism, this seems an economically illogical and short-term decision to me.

This local decision is symptomatic of a wider national lack of commitment to the tourism industry. A few days ago, the Conservative Group in the National Assembly issued the following press release, outlining the scale of cutback in Assembly Government spending on the industry.

July 29th, 2008


WELSH Conservatives today published new evidence of the Labour-Plaid Assembly Government’s failure to invest in the Welsh tourist industry.

Figures obtained by the party reveal that the coalition government is spending £5mn less on tourism marketing than the Wales Tourist Board did five years ago.

Shadow Heritage Minister Paul Davies AM described the news as “startling” and accused ministers of a “narrow-sighted approach” to investing in one of Wales ’ key industries.

Responsibility for tourism in Wales passed to the Assembly Government in 2006 when the Wales Tourist Board was abolished.

According to the Assembly Government’s own website tourists spend more than £8mn a day on trips to Wales , amounting to £3bn a year.

But figures obtained by South Wales Central AM Andrew Davies show the marketing spend on tourism in Wales has fallen from £17.7mn under the WTB in 2002 to £12.7mn in 2007/8 under the Assembly Government’s Visit Wales arm.

The figures show Assembly Government marketing spend in the UK only rose by £400,000 last year despite more people wanting to holiday closer to home due to the credit crunch.

The overseas marketing budget has remained static over the last two years.

Earlier this year Welsh Conservatives revealed how visitor spend in Wales has fallen since 2000.

The number of tourists visiting Wales last year also fell by more than quarter of a million, according to figures published in May.

Amongst many notes to this release was the following;


Figures obtained by the Welsh Conservatives in May reveal that visitor spend in Wales from tourists was £3.421bn in 2000, falling to £3.262bn in 2007. The figures show that total visitor spent also fell in the year immediately after the abolition of the Wales Tourist Board.

Now I accept that the level of public spending is not the only indicator of commitment, but these figures do make it difficult to believe anything but that the Governing Coalition has turned its back on tourism as an economic driver and wealth promoter. I feel sure this withdrawal from tourism support is a mistake, particularly since last years tourism spend in Wales was significantly reduced. But then, I spent five years as a member of the Wales Tourist Board, under the 'leadership' of Prys Edwards and Paul Loveluck, when tourism was seen as an important part of the future Welsh economy.


Anonymous said...

lies, damned lies and statistics glyn. all i'll suggest is that for a balanced look at the figures perhaps one should ask why the 2002 figure was used? and not later tourist board years?

Hay=on=wye has an independent tourist office glyn and that hasn't done too bad in the tourism stakes....bugger all else mind.

Anonymous said...

An interesting post but one does have to question whether in this internet age these tourism offices serve any usefull purpose. I can look up attractions and hotels online. What purpose does an office like this serve with its dusty fliers and surly and unhelpfull staff? I speak from experience of the Welshpool Office who were singularly pathetic when I visited the town a couple of years ago. Fortunately the town is better than its TIC and I found everything I needed to know from the people at the excellent butchers/food hall and the steam railway.

Glyn Davies said...

anon 1 - I have not looked at all the figures, and was making a general point. You make an interesting point which I made to a County Council Board Member today. If the dedicated TICs are closed, there should be an attempt to establish an alternative in private retail outlets, even in supermarkets.

Anon 2 - Welshpool is a great town. As well as Langford's Foodhall and Ricky Lloyd's butchers, and the light railway, there's the Cockpit and Powys Castle close at hand - plus plenty more. Better stop. I'm sounding like tourism officer.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as this Government is hell bent on putting windfarms on practically every mountain in Montgomeryshire, who on earth will want to visit this once beautiful area anyway.

Day tripper said...

It's about time the tourist industry took on more responsibility for funding it's own promotion. Development grants for hotels - why? I'm in the construction industry - no one's offering me a grant to improve my circumstances. Why is the taxpayer funding tourism surely the industry is doing well enough to stand on its own two feet by now.

Ifor Hael said...

Glyn , the few times I have asked Welsh Assembly officers for help with my business the answer is "To be frank we don't know what help we can give you because everything is up in the air at the moment" .

I have had the same reply four or five times over the last five years, the other one is " We don't even know if we have a job ourselves Ifor'.

I honestly don't know what to do offer them a job myself or make them a cup of coffee and call the Samaritans! They seem to be in a state of 'perpetual revolution' to borrow a Maoist phrase . Why did the Assembly get rid of the WDA ? They must have spent tens of millions marketing that brand !

One thing I feel very strongly about and a very practical way for the Government in Wales to help business, would be to source more from small businesses locally . For example what if every school in Wales bought from suppliers within a 15 mile radius? Imagine the effect that would have on small butchers , bakers and greengrocers in a place like Montgomeryshire.

It's the ability to 'pop down the shop' that is central to the quality of life in rural Wales - especially for the elderly .

And please don't get me going on the closure of Post Office and the over zealous policing of the drink drive laws in rural Wales .

In Wales, the politicians argue that they have to put all contracts in the public sector out to tender that are over £250 000 and to post them on OJEC (see - but in France the budget holder in local schools is the school cook herself not the council - and she sources locally never buying more than a few thousand pounds worth of produce at any one time .

If we made all school cooks budget holders — and I would trust them with money any day — then children would be getting far more fresh local produce . It would cut carbon emissions substantially and have an incalculable beneficial effect on our children's lives. Campaign on this issue Glyn - visit Brittany and see what the kids eat there and how their food is sourced.

Ifor Hael said...

From the Guardian
Compared with their British equivalents, school meals in France - taken by half of all French schoolchildren - are well-balanced three or even four-course affairs.

Menus for the week are posted on school notice boards so parents can plan appropriate evening meals; many town councils also put them their website. This, for example, is what my four-year-old had for lunch last week at his pre-elementary school in the 9th arrondissement of Paris.

Government school meal guidelines in France date from 1971 and state that at least 45 minutes must be allowed for each meal, which must contain a raw vegetable or fruit (crudites, salad or fruit as a dessert); animal proteins at least one part of which must be in the form of milk or a dairy product; cooked vegetables or fruit at least twice a week and carbohydrates on the remaining days.

Anonymous said...

What puzzles me is why so many French children end up addicted to nicotine.

alanindyfed said...

Put a French child up against a British child and you will see the difference.

hello hello hello, what's all this then? said...

.....and the over zealous policing of the drink drive laws in rural Wales.

Is this because of an over zealous flouting of the drink drive laws in rural Wales?

Tell him Glyn.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I do not believe that a small number of wind farms will impact on visitor numbers, but the cumulative impact will, which is why this should be a planning consideration when new applications are being decided.

Day tripper - A fair point. When I was a WTB member, I always thought that the budget should have been directed into the marketing of Wales, and innovative projects, rather through and 'special' help to individual businesses, beyond what was available to all business that is.

ivor - Too mant points to tackle, but I'll add two comments. Firstly, the WDA, WTB, and others were would up with no debate whatsoever. It was a shameful way for Rhodri Morgan to behave and I said at the time that his decision (and I think it was his personal prejudice that was behind it) rendered him unfit to be First Minister. Probably a bit strong, but that was how I felt at the time.
Second point is the excellence of the Farmer's markets being arranged at primary schools around Montgomeryshire. They really are a very good way of promoting local food.

anon and Alan - I can add nothing.

Hello. - I do not think there is over zealousness in enforcing the drink-drive laws. The law is clear, and if you break it you know the consequences. I know I risk criticism, but I do think there is over zealousness in enforcing the speeding laws.