Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Wales Tourist Board.

I was a member of the Wales Tourist Board between 1989-94. I served under the Chairmanship of Prys Edwards and Tony Lewis, two men of very different style, but both good leaders in their own way. We were served by a savvy and effective Chief Executive named Paul Loveluck. I didn't agree with all that the WTB did, and occasionally I rattled my toys in Board meetings. But it gave Wales a strong profile in the international tourism market. It worked and it delivered. I thought it was a great mistake when Rhodri Morgan abolished the WTB, and incorporated its role within the Assembly Government. I believe that he did this without any prior discussion with any WTB personnel, or even informing his own cabinet, except the Machiavellian Andrew Davies (I think Andrew would like that if someone cares to show him)). This was Rhodri Morgan taking revenge on 'The Quangos' without any regard for the consequences to the Welsh economy or to the Welsh tourist industry. When I was an Assembly Member, I told him to his face, and publicly, that the way in which he abolished the WDA and the WTB rendered him unfit for the position of First Minister. I believed that then, with fervour, and I still believe that today.

There were some in the tourism industry who welcomed the demise of the WTB. They believed the 'spin'. They thought that they, directly representing their industry, would be a more effective champion. They thought that dealing directly with 'Government' would benefit the industry. Well, they were wrong. And this is the inevitable result. If you walk down the street in Welshpool, no-one will have a clue what 'Visit Wales' is. Ten conferences won't change that. The old strapline 'Wales Tourist Board' was worth tens of millions, cast casually aside, together with the equally valuable strapline 'Welsh development Agency' into a disposal bucket marked 'Rhodri Morgan's Prejudice'. Oh what a tragedy. And its the tourism businesses of Wales who are paying the price of one man's vanity. Some day, a new body will be created, very like the Wales Tourist Board. And that may well be what they call it.


Anonymous said...

do you really believe that has it chnaged, yes the branding has chnaged but I actually think Visit Wales is a better sounding brand the than WTB.
As for the personnel, of all the quangos, they are pretty much the same and very little has changed. The industry are moaning and going for obvious targets but with actually very little evidence and after and during an economic downturn.
The WDA is another matter, but they weren't all that great if one actually looks at the evidence. And as a mid wales boy I am glad the quangos went before Hawker managd to centralise all economic development in Cardiff...yes that was the plan so I applaud the assembly for stopping that and pursuing a regional strategy. If only we could move the agriultureal systems division out of cardiff too I say, that the last Tory administration should never have been allowed to move from aber in the first place.
And whileI respect you and your views you should never have been on the boards you were without a vote...I think its fair to say that.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - matter of opinion. It takes many years of big investment to establish a name. The 'Wales Tousist Board' was well established - and overseas as well.

The 'personnel' might be the same, but the way they operate is very different. Example - I used to telephone some Quango people I'd worked with to discuss issues. It was very helpful. Since they have become civil servants they tell me that they dare not discuss issues with me at all. I am suppopsedto go through formal channels.

I take your point about the WDA - from a mid Wales perspective. In my opinion, mid Wales lost out hugely when the Development Board for Rural Wales was abolished, and its responsibilities given to the WDA.

Personally, I would not have opposed the election of some Quango board members. You may be interested to know that I was always 'nominated' by the Montgomeryshire Council to a list of individuals from which the Secretary of State for Wales had to choose some of the DBRW members. This nod in the direction of democracy ended with the demise of the DBRW. I would not have wanted all board members to be elected though. One of the points of a quango is that the National Assembly can take advantage of individuals with specialist capability.