New vision to reach top five for North Wales
By Ceidiog Hughes
ONE of the world’s leading experts on tourism has revealed a new vision to turn North Wales into a “world class” destination for visitors. Professor Terry Stevens is working with Tourism Partnership North Wales to make sure North Wales is a destination which visitors will want to return to – again and again. He aims to make the region approach tourism in the same way as our successful continental rivals – such as Croatia, Finland, Italy and Austria – by promoting ‘destination management’.
It’s already under way in Conwy and there are similar plans underway in the other North Wales counties of Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Anglesey and Gwynedd including Snowdonia. The initiative is a key part of Tourism Partnership’s five-year strategy to turn North Wales into a Top Five UK visitor destination. To do that they are aiming to create an “excellent visitor experience” so that people want to come back to North Wales – and tell their friends and family to come here too.
The highly-regarded Professor Stevens is managing director of Swansea-based Stevens and Associates who have worked in 19 countries and completed over 160 projects for a wide range of clients. Prof Stevens said: “Destinations are the places which tourists actually consume their tourism experience and we must ensure a totally successful experience at the point of consumption and destination management is the key to that. Tourism Partnership North Wales is absolutely right in pursuing destination management as a policy. They are anxious to find the right solutions for their different areas in North Wales and that is what the current exercise is about. If we get people to Wales and they have a bad experience at Llandudno or Llangollen or Llanberis, we have lost them forever, it’s about guaranteeing to get that experience just right.
“There are a lot of countries, some small countries, which practise destination management, we need look no further that Croatia, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. My aim is the improvement of partnerships and examination of future trends in the industry. Primarily it is about opportunities that exist from stronger collaborations and a clearer vision, bold and positive branding. Our competitors across Europe all operate destination management models different to our own and we need to learn the lessons. The whole process we go through is to engage with the private sector, raising their aspirations and confidence levels for the role they can play, to take the leadership.
“In a province such as the South Tyrol in Austria, in Kitzbuhel they say we need more hotels in the five star category and I can give an example where this has happened, and the hotel has gone from case study to opening in less than one year. The money is there, we have enough resources, but we need to align it to make everything work. Tourism is not a statutory requirement of local authorities, but economic development is. Local authorities should not do less but focus on the context that will allow tourism to grow, like good planning, clean streets, and good transport”.
Dewi Davies, the Regional Strategy Director of Tourism Partnership North Wales, is a strong advocate of destination management. He said: “Destination management is all about good practice which requires cooperation and alignment 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. The competition is extremely tough. People can fly out of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham or London and access over many, many destinations within a short haul so if we don’t continuously improve the offer of our destinations in North Wales then we’ll miss out. We need to grasp this opportunity.”