As tourism businesses across Wales gear up for Easter, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, visited businesses in Pembrokeshire who are looking forward to welcoming visitors following new developments and investment.
The team at Folly Farm have had a busy winter working on new attractions to keep the visitor experience fresh for new and returning guests. A new accommodation development has had funding from the Welsh Government and the Minister had the opportunity to see one of the luxury lodges which will open to the public in the summer
A further eight safari lodges will arrive at the end of the year, which will overlook the rhino enclosure. The Minister also had an opportunity to see the touring caravan and campsite which has this week received a 5 star Visit Wales grading.
In addition to the accommodation, other developments, include a new indoor soft play area, eight brand new Takeuchi mini-diggers for the Big Dig attraction supplied by J Davies of Lampeter, a new native species enclosure on the zoo, extensive themed development for the rare breed paddocks and new land train carriages.
Chris Ebsworth, managing director at Folly Farm, said:
“We’re looking forward to a busy Easter and summer season at the attraction having had a record-breaking February half term. Advanced bookings for our accommodation are strong and we’re looking forward to our first full season of operation in two years. A heavy level of investment this winter means there’s lots of new attractions to see and our usual annual maintenance plan means everything is looking fabulous!
The Economy Minister said:
“It’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years for the visitor economy. Two years ago, we had to take the very difficult decision to restrict people’s travel in order to keep Wales safe from Coronavirus, which meant tourism businesses weren’t able to welcome visitors for Easter.
“However, research now shows there is higher confidence and comfort levels, and the UK public anticipate taking significantly more overnight trips in the next 12 months, than the previous 12 months.
“Visit Wales marketing campaigns have been keeping Wales front of mind throughout the winter, as people regain confidence and look ahead to booking holidays.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the Welsh Government has pulled every lever possible to back Welsh businesses. We’ve provided in excess of £2.6 billion funding to Welsh businesses, in a package has helped protect in excess of 160,000 Welsh jobs which might otherwise have been lost. We also extended our 100% business rate relief package for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses until the end of March 2022.
"To support businesses over the next 12 months, we’re providing a £116 million package of non-domestic rates relief for businesses in the sectors most directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This means retail, leisure and hospitality ratepayers in Wales will receive 50% non-domestic rates relief for the duration of 2022 to 2023.
“In recovering from the pandemic, our ambition is to grow tourism for the good of Wales and to do this we will grow tourism by extending the season, promoting Wales during less busy times of the year and promoting areas of Wales which are quieter.
One of the challenges facing the sector following the pandemic is recruitment, as many businesses are seeing a shortage of staff. The Welsh Government has been working with the sector on a recruitment campaign to highlight the range of personal development opportunities and potential career paths on offer in the sector. Folly Farm and The Grove of Narberth have worked with Visit Wales on the Experience Makers campaign to highlight roles are careers.
The Minister also visited the Grove of Narberth. The five-star hotel is part of Seren collection in Wales, and the portfolio of venues has been working hard to address the recruitment issues facing the sector.
At the start of 2022 flexible working practices were introduced, meaning that all staff can work to a four-day-a-week rota with no adjustment to salary, whilst being paid for any extra shifts. Those staff who wished to remain on a five-day week, also had the option to do so. It follows the introduction of a four-day week for chefs at the hotel in 2016. The business has also introduced a profit sharing scheme where members of staff will share in the ongoing success of the business, alongside other staff package improvements including long service holiday rewards.
Neil Kedward, Managing Director of Seren, said:
“We’re delighted to have made this progressive and important change for the individuals across our businesses Grove of Narberth, Coast Restaurant in Saundersfoot, and Beach House Restaurant in Oxwich. We are already seeing the impact of this change in helping our teams find real balance in their lives, having more quality time with family and friends, and feeling energised and more focused on achieving their goals at work. We have invested significantly over the years to get the product right in each venue, and so now we are well placed to invest much more in our people.
The Minister added:
“As we build a stronger, fairer, greener Welsh economy.We are committed to investing in our people, through the Young Person’s Guarantee and a strong employability and skills offer, including apprenticeships. Apprenticeships can help futureproof, motivate and diversify a workforce, offering people the chance to gain high-quality vocational skills. They are also crucial to our ambitious post-Covid economic recovery plans. That’s why we have committed to creating a further 125,000 all-age apprenticeship places over the next five years.