North Wales destination is future prosperity
By Ceidiog Hughes
Tourism chiefs have launched a new campaign to spruce up North Wales to help propel the region into the UK’s top five destinations for visitors. The destination management project is a “key building block” of a strategy to increase the value of the £2.16 billion industry which employs 40,000 people. It is being masterminded by Tourism Partnership North Wales, the organisation responsible for the strategic development of the area’s visitor economy.
They are working with partners in the private and public sectors, including all six local authorities in North Wales and the Snowdonia National Park Authority. The aim is to create an “Excellent Visitor Experience” so that people want to come back to North Wales – and they tell their friends and family to come here too. According to Partnership Development Manager Andrew Forfar, destination management is one of the “key building blocks” of their five-year blueprint to boost the visitor economy.
He said: “Destination management is all about good practice which requires cooperation between the public and private sectors to deliver a quality experience for visitors when they’re here in North Wales. That includes everything from keeping our streets clean, providing a sense of place, improving highway signage and a lot more besides – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Our aim in the new strategy is to be one of the top five destinations in the UK – it’s about people coming here and getting a good experience first time around so that when they go home they spread the word. The idea is that they keep coming back and that they persuade others to come here as well. North Wales has got a lot going for it in terms of things to excite visitors, mountains, coastline and attractions.
Apart for the magnificent natural environment, we’ve also got a wealth of heritate and culture. Last year the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal was awarded World Heritage Status along with our fantastic castles. People’s expectations these days are much higher than they’ve ever been. The bar is constantly being raised and it’s vital that North Wales is ahead of the game.
One of the most important things is to give visitors a warm welcome so that they feel right at home. So, we’re looking at skills and making sure that service standards are up to scratch through the suite of new Visit Wales programmes, Croeso Cynnes Cymreig (A Warm Welsh Welcome). The programmes are designed to develop the core skills of staff and enhance the sense of place visitors feel when they come here as well as encouraging people to use the Welsh language in their business. We are ahead of the curve in the way that people perceive the warmness of the welcome that visitors get here in North Wales.
A survey last year showed that 99 per cent of visitors were positive about North Wales as a place to visit, with 56 per cent saying it was excellent. But we are certainly not resting on our laurels and the destination management initiative is another vitally important piece of the jigsaw. Destination Conwy was established recently and we are working with remaining five local authorities to establish Destination Anglesey, Destination Gwynedd, Destination Denbighshire, Destination Flintshire and Destination Wrexham and ultimately have Destination North Wales.
It’s about people pulling together in partnership and that’s going to be coming more important as money starts to get tighter. Achieving an ‘Excellent Visitor Experience’ is not something that can be done in isolation – strong communication links and partnership working will be essential. These will include not only internal partners but also external partners from all aspects of the tourism industry, national and local government and the community at large. The potential rewards are huge. Tourism is becoming an increasingly important component of the regional economy in North Wales. The visitor economy generates £2.16 billion pounds a year and creates employment for 40,000 people.
It is the life blood of the regional economy and the importance of the destination management project should be viewed in that context.”