Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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
MINISTERS FAILING TO INVEST IN MARKETING WALES
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;
TOURISM GENERATES LESS MONEY FOR WELSH ECONOMY THAN IN 2000
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.