The Wales Tourism Alliance, which represents all sectors of the country’s tourism industry, has elected two new leaders as the organisation plans to target political parties and candidates in the run up to the National Assembly for Wales election next May.
Former North Wales hotelier Adrian Barsby takes over from Tenby hotelier Chris Osborne as chairman and retired Wales Tourist Board and Countryside Council for Wales chief executive Paul Loveluck is the new vice chairman.
One of their first duties since taking up the posts last week was to prepare a briefing document for political parties and National Assembly for Wales members and prospective candidates.
The document highlights the importance of tourism to the Welsh economy and suggests policies which the incoming Welsh Government should consider to meet challenges and opportunities facing the industry.
It emphasises the important role of Assembly Members in holding the Welsh Government to account with policies that impact the tourism industry.
The WTA briefing document calls for Visit Wales, the Welsh Government’s tourism arm, to be adequately staffed and resourced to continue its vital work and for the department’s marketing expertise to be enhanced.
It wants the Welsh Government to develop a better understanding of the industry through consultation with the WTA and to appreciate that the future of tourism is dependent on decisions made by the Westminster Government, with which it wants closer working.
The Welsh Government is urged to support the campaign to reduce VAT on tourism accommodation, to create a business friendly climate by being innovative with support and to appreciate the impact on tourism of decisions made in other policy areas.
It calls for investment in tourism infrastructure, including electrification of railway lines and broadband connectivity, more focused training programmes for staff and owner managers, support for the development of new, market-driven tourism products and improved tourism statistics.
The WTA says it’s important to review quality grading schemes to assure visitors of tourism standards in Wales. It urges the Welsh Government to consult with the industry about balanced marketing campaigns to sell Wales effectively as a visitor destination and to work with Visit Britain and the GREAT campaign to develop overseas markets.
The Welsh Government is also encouraged to develop connections with Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool airports as gateways for inbound visitors to North and Mid Wales.
The new leadership team has been appointed during a period of transition for the WTA, which no longer has core funding from the Welsh Government to employ a full-time director. The transition will see board members taking on additional advocacy roles to represent their area of expertise.
Mr Barsby, who lives near Mold, believes the period of transition provides the WTA with a great opportunity to harness expertise and knowledge from across the industry.
He wants the WTA to be in a strong position to contribute constructively to the mid-term review of the Welsh Government’s Partnership for Growth: Strategy for Tourism 2013-2012.
“I think we need to be able to congratulate and encourage Visit Wales and the Welsh Government for the things that they do well and also to chastise them behind the scenes for the things they do not do so well,” said Mr Barsby, who now works with and mentors around 200 businesses as managing director of Barsby Associates. “That has to be backed up by robust information rather than gut reaction.
“I would like to have an endorsement from the Welsh Government in the next 12 months that Wales Tourism Alliance is a body that does represent the whole of the visitor economy and that they value going to one point to get intelligence about the sector.
“I would like the Welsh Government to understand and appreciate that there are some fundamental structural issues which need to be addressed over the next five to 10 years that will equip the sector to compete with the rest of the UK.”
He believes it’s time for the industry to take control of its own destiny rather than letting Visit Wales and the Welsh Government lead the way.
He revealed that the election of the vastly experienced Mr Loveluck as vice chairman was pivotal in his standing as WTA chairman.
Mr Loveluck, who lives in Montgomery, was Wales Tourist Board chief executive for 12 years and president of the National Museum Wales for nine years. “The Wales Tourism Alliance is very important because it’s an umbrella organisation for all the different sectors of the tourism industry,” he said.
“Our briefing document represents what the industry thinks should be on the agenda for the next five years. Hopefully, it will give Assembly Members a starting point for deeper inquiry into the industry.
“It’s also important to point out that the tourism industry is not solely dependent on what happens in Wales but also internationally. Therefore we in Wales need to work with the industry in the rest of the UK and the Welsh Government needs to work with Westminster on policies that will support tourism.
“There is no doubt that we need an organisation like Visit Wales and a Welsh Government that follows policies that are conducive to not only to tourism but to business in general.
“I want to get tourism on the next government’s agenda and Assembly Members better informed about what makes the industry successful so that they are able to play their part in the democratic process of holding the government to account.
“The industry has made tremendous strides forward in the last 30 or so years. The quality of the product on offer and people’s skills are much better than they used to be. But it’s a highly competitive business, with the international exchange rate often the determining factor for overseas visitors and intense competition from other areas of the UK for the domestic market.”