Dawn Bowden MS, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Tourism
Launched in February 2022, the inquiry received 15 submissions of written evidence and held five oral evidence hearings, taking evidence from organisations and representatives from the visitor economy sector and, in its final session, Ministers from the Welsh and UK Governments.
The report made a number of positive points, including about Visit Wales’ work; co-working between Visit Wales and VisitBritain and industry relationships and engagement.
This report includes a focuses on how VisitBritain markets Wales internationally and makes a series of comments and observations:
- VisitBritain lacks the knowledge and expertise to successfully promote Wales, and is not achieving all it can on behalf of Wales.
- It is important UK Government bodies responsible for promoting Wales abroad reflect the distinct identity of each part of the UK in their activities.
- The committee recommends VisitBritain improves its website to better market Wales overseas.
The committee has asked VisitBritain to report on its progress by February 2024. Visit Wales will be updated on progress in these areas in the interim.
The evidence used to inform this report dates to early spring of 2022, as tourist destinations around the world – and in Wales – were recovering from the pandemic. Our work post-pandemic has been focused on supporting the sector to restore and grow international markets. In 2019, there were 1.02m international visits to Wales, with a spend of around £515m and with visitors staying, on average, four to seven nights. Domestic visitors have always played a very important role in the Welsh visitor economy – in 2019, there were 10.7m overnight visitors from across Great Britain to Wales, spending around £2bn, staying on average 3.5 nights.
I was pleased the committee’s report highlighted the UK Government’s failure to designate HS2 as an England-only project, which would have meant that people in Wales would have benefitted from some £5bn in additional funding.
The committee also explored Visit Wales as part of the Welsh Government. This enables Visit Wales to make connections across international relations, housing and climate change in creating tourism for good. I do not see that creating an external body would bring any significant benefit to the sector.
In relation to branding, the award-winning Cymru Wales brand has been in place since 2016 and its strength was endorsed this week in an independent report on Wales’ activity at the FIFA World Cup 22. The Cymru Wales brand is based on our strong cultural and national identity; the landscapes of our exceptional built and natural environment and our acknowledged adventure offer.
We continue to work on proposals which will give local authorities powers to introduce a visitor levy in their local area. This will generate revenue to support investment in the tourism industry. Our research shows that the idea of a levy – which is commonplace in holiday destinations around the world – is popular with people in Wales, especially those living in tourist hotspots.
Introducing a visitor levy is a Programme for Government commitment and the work is being carried out in collaboration with Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-operation Agreement.