Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism
Last year was a record breaking year for Wales’s tourism industry with domestic staying visitors to Wales peaking at over 10m trips in 2014 - with spend up 9% over the last two years; and trips from international visitors increasing by 9% since 2012 - and spend up 6%.
There are strong growth prospects for tourism in Wales and having weathered the recession, we are ahead of our strategic growth target which aims to grow tourism earnings in real terms by 10% or more by 2020. Tourism is also a key source of export earnings with over £2.1 billion generated from staying visitors to Wales in 2014.
Figures for Wales continue to show growth in the volume of trips, nights and expenditure in Wales during the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year.
This is all encouraging news for Wales’s economy as a whole; with the Deloitte/Oxford Economics 2013 study Tourism and growth – The economic contribution of the tourism economy in the UK indicating Tourism’s total overall contribution to the Welsh economy at £8.7 billion. This contribution supports in total around 242,000 jobs – both direct and wider impact jobs generated through greater demand on related supply chains, local services and businesses.
Since 2005 tourism has seen high growth in employment in Wales, out performing all priority sectors in Wales with half of all 16 to 24 year olds employed in the priority sectors in Wales now employed in tourism. Tourism also provides the highest proportion of employment for women in these priority sectors.
Tourism is an industry that benefits all parts of Wales and is the main employer in many areas. Among the Welsh Government priority sectors, Tourism is the second largest employer behind Energy & Environment.
The latest results from the Great Britain Tourism Survey for January to June of this year show expenditure on visits to Wales has risen by 25%, compared with 15% for Great Britain as a whole.
The volume of nights spent in Wales increased by 17% as people choose to stay longer, with the average length of stay up to 3.38 nights compared to 3.06 in the same period in 2014. Related average spend per night rose to £56 compared to £53 in the first half of 2014.
Overseas visitor figures for the first quarter of 2015 show that Wales welcomed 137,000 overseas visitors, 5.4% up on the first quarter of 2014.
These positive figures follow, for example, a bumper August Bank Holiday weekend which saw crowds out across Wales, to support the P1 Welsh Grand Prix of the Sea at Cardiff Bay, amongst other events happening across Wales, including the Rhyl Air Show and World Bog Snorkelling Championships at Llanwrtyd Wells.
We are not complacent, it is a competitive world and the strength of the pound will make it increasingly important for Wales to innovate in quality products, keep our message fresh and give compelling reasons for people to visit Wales through our capital investment and marketing campaigns and our world class events calendar.
As part of this, we are continuing to work closely with the industry to sustain these figures and invest in new innovative world-class products, such as - Zip World, giant underground trampolines and world class mountain biking tracks - which are all pulling in millions of pounds worth of revenue to the Welsh economy every year.
The Welsh Government’s investment in tourism product development has helped to generate jobs. Through the Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS) some 311 jobs were created / safeguarded in 2014/2015, inducing investment totalling some £13.9m. In 2015/2016 to date TISS has supported some 216 jobs with investment induced totalling £7.6m to date.
In 2014-15, total additional expenditure generated by our tourism marketing activities was £238 million, supporting over 5,400 jobs. A further 1,400 jobs were supported by our investment in Major Events, Travel Trade and Cruise-related activity.
The Environment from Growth programme has now been completed. The six year, £37 million EU funded programme has successfully developed eight iconic tourism centres of excellence across Wales which offer a range of new products and opportunities for visitors and local people to enjoy and take part in activities within Wales’ natural environment and coast. The eight centres of excellence have also created 130 jobs and generated over 2 million visits.
This has increased tourism’s contribution to the wider Welsh economy and gives testament to Wales’ growing and differing world-class products reflecting all the investment, hard work and dedication of the people working in the tourism sector.
In addition to our investment in product development we have introduced a new annual thematic marketing approach. Starting next year with ‘Year of Adventure’, the first of a number of thematic year approaches to keep focusing on Wales’ core strengths and giving people compelling reasons to visit Wales. This will be followed by ‘Year of Legends’ in 2017 and ‘Year of the Sea’ in 2018.
The Year of Adventure has secured the backing of two prominent adventurers, Bear Grylls and Richard Parks, who have agreed to be Adventure Ambassadors for Wales in 2016.
Through this Autumn, we will be working directly with tourism businesses to exhibit at travel trade shows to encourage more tour operators to include or expand their tour itineraries in Wales; we are also looking at some exciting new product start-ups; and I look forward to working with the industry to ensure that our Year of Adventure campaign is successful.
2016 will also mark the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth in Wales and we will be promoting this in a similar vein to Dylan Thomas’ centenary in 2014. RD100 will form a key component of the Year of Adventure, with major events and activities taking place across Wales.
Next year will also see a great Welsh adventure in France taking place. The UEFA European Championship 2016 will offer an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness of Wales as a European capital of adventure, paving the way to 2017 Year of Legends, when we will gain the largest television exposure ever for an event with the hosting of the UEFA Champions’ League Final.