Thrill seekers will help generate a £2 billion bonanza for North Wales this year, according to a tourism chief.
The Welsh Government has designated 2016 as the Year of Adventure and Jim Jones, the Managing Director of North Wales Tourism, believes it heralds a new golden era for the visitor economy.
North Wales is at the epicentre of the growing adventure holidays market and is earning recognition as a world leader thanks to developments like Zip World and Surf Snowdonia.
The sector already employs 40,000 people across North Wales – which adds up to one in every seven jobs in the area.
At the same time Mr Jones estimates more than £100 million of mainly private sector money is currently being invested in tourism-related projects in the region.
Heading up North Wales Tourism, a membership organisation which represents more than 1,000 tourism businesses, is the “dream job” for Mr Jones, who was appointed in November last year.
Mr Jones, who was previously head of tourism and communities at Conwy Council, said: “I love North Wales. I know how important North Wales is and I just felt that I could make a difference and try to put North Wales on the map, not just nationally, but internationally as well.
“North Wales Tourism is the biggest destination management organisation in Wales and my ambition is for it to grow even more and eventually rival and overtake Cumbria Tourism which is the benchmark.
“What we’ve got to do is embrace the public sector and bring them on board with the private sector to work in partnership and create a single voice, a cohesive brand for North Wales.
“People are realising now that the tourism industry now is a dominant industry in North Wales with eight per cent of the region’s gross domestic product or a total of £2 billion coming from tourism.
“The recognition is growing, the jobs that are created are well over 40,000 involved directly within the industry and the potential is there for so much more, particularly if people work together, so that North Wales can punch above its weight.
“This is an exciting time to be involved in the tourism industry in North Wales, particularly as 2016 has been designated as the Year of Adventure – to be followed by the Year of Legends and the Year of the Sea.
“We can already lay a claim to being the adventure capital of Europe when you look at fantastic developments like Zip World and Surf Snowdonia adding to the existing opportunities for adrenaline-fuelled adventure breaks right across the region.
“It’s bringing us kudos and recognition and, on the back of that, you’ve got other attraction providers starting to invest big sums of money into their infrastructure.
“We’ve got a growing range of accommodation that can cope with the demand for our world-class attractions.
“We’ve already got the heritage which is in itself is high profile and we’ve got our breath-taking landscape which is as good as anywhere on the planet.
“What’s helping us as well is the direction that Visit Wales and the Welsh Government are going with regard to the partnership with their global strategy.
“In terms of adventure, we’re up there with the very best in Europe in terms of our offer. In terms of the legends and the heritage, you watch this space next year especially from the North Wales perspective and then we’ve got the Year of the Sea.
“From a marketing perspective, we need to be working together in partnership to market on a North Wales level. It’s something that we in North Wales Tourism are doing and we’ve got big plans ahead.
“We’re just about to launch a new website which will be our gateway into North Wales. The new Go North Wales branding has been refreshed. It’s giving the message that we are a modern tourist destination with everything on offer but we’re also very proud of our history and our heritage which brings a lot of visitors in as well.”