Wales’ tourism potential underappreciated

Wales could, and should, be on the list of potential destinations for overseas holidaymakers looking to avoid the usual thoroughfares. It boasts some of the UK’s most spectacular landscapes, with the ethereal slate-scarred peaks of Eryri (Snowdonia) notable for its uniqueness, while pastel-coloured former fishing villages retain an old-world charm, and historic castles and shipwreck strewn shores remain relatively undisturbed.

But a lack of effective marketing, limited holiday packages, and inadequate transportation connections are hindering Wales’ aspirations, the BBC has reported, citing a report by Members of Parliament on the Welsh affairs committee.

A Welsh affairs committee has expressed concerns about Wales receiving only a small fraction of the total number of visitors to the UK. Out of the 41 million international tourists who visited the UK in 2019, just over one million ventured to Wales. Tourism contributes an estimated £3bn to the Welsh economy.

In a report, the MPs highlighted Wales’ relatively low profile overseas and the absence of a cohesive brand for the international market. They noted that out of the £28 billion spent by international tourists in the UK in 2019, only £515 million (2%) was spent in Wales.

Committee chairman Stephen Crabb expressed disappointment in the oversight of Wales by organizations like VisitBritain and tour operators. He also highlighted the challenges posed by poor road networks, making it difficult for visitors to access certain locations, although air and sea links also contribute to a degree of remoteness.

‘UK organisations that should be responsible for promoting visits to Wales, such as VisitBritain, routinely overlook it in their own marketing materials,’ Crabb said. ‘Tour operators fail to consistently offer Wales as a holiday destination. The transport infrastructure puts international tourists off coming to Wales, and the poor road network would make travelling to some special locations challenging.’

‘Is it any wonder Wales isn’t the global tourist destination it can be?’

Additionally, the report urged the Welsh government to reconsider its plans for a visitor levy, as it might negatively impact Wales’ appeal to international tourists.

Transport infrastructure was identified as another key issue impacting Wales’ ability to attract more tourists. The MPs noted that it had been underfunded by both the UK and Welsh governments for several years. They proposed exploring creative funding solutions, including the establishment of a new direct rail link connecting Wales with Heathrow Airport.

The MPs recommended that Visit Wales collaborate with VisitBritain to improve how Wales is marketed in international campaigns by February 2024. They also called for tour operators to include Wales in their UK holiday packages, as it is often overlooked.

VisitBritain’s chief executive, Patricia Yates affirmed that the report’s findings would be carefully studied. ‘We’re working with international travel trade to ensure Wales is sold internationally, this year inviting Welsh businesses on trade missions to China, India and the USA,’ she said.

The company is ‘bringing international tour operators and media on visits to Wales to boost product and destination knowledge’, she added.