The Business Minister has refused to answer questions in the Assembly on her decision to gag Visit Wales.
Labour’s Edwina Hart was quizzed on the move by Welsh Conservatives during their opposition Senedd debate on the tourism industry today (Wednesday, July 2nd).
The Minister has prevented staff attending the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, where they were invited to give evidence on tourism. The bizarre decision follows her own select committee snub in 2011.
Labour’s First Minister has also refused to disclose correspondence that led to the latest ban.
Assembly Members raised severe concerns of a tourism industry hamstrung by a Labour minister more interested in gagging officials and ignoring marketing potential – than boosting visitors to Wales.
During today’s debate, Labour’s business minister would only ‘note’ concerns about her decision to prevent staff attending the committee.
The Welsh tourism industry contributed 3.1 billion pounds to Wales’ GDP in 2013, equating to one pound in every 16 generated.
The industry directly or indirectly employs 114,000 jobs which represents 8.2 per cent of total employment in Wales.
However, figures from the Welsh Centre for Tourism Research, published in April 2014, show a 23 per cent drop in overseas tourists visiting Wales in the past 10 years. The latest figures show 850,000 overseas visitors compared with 1.1 million a decade ago.
Only 3 per cent of overseas visitors to the UK spent at least one night in Wales in 2012.
Welsh Conservatives also highlighted the demise of Regional Tourism Partnerships this September – and the Labour government’s inability to clarify their replacement.
Shadow Minister for Culture and Heritage, Suzy Davies AM, said:
“Just two years ago Labour’s business minister confessed to not getting the brand of Wales right. Has anything changed?
“The figures suggest not.
“The officials able to tell the story have been gagged.
“And their minister continues to ignore all scrutiny.
“In short - Labour’s approach is more medieval than the age-old attractions Wales has to offer.
“Our tourism industry is being hamstrung by a Labour government more interested in banning transparency than boosting visitors.
“Tourism is vastly important to the Welsh economy. It is a fiercely competitive market that will only improve with a revamped Labour strategy that puts marketing at the top of the agenda and allows the scrutiny that is so desperately needed.
“Public money must be far better targeted at promotion and publicity – and Visit Britain’s successful marketing structures used to full effect.
“Right now - Visit Wales isn’t working.
“Businesses dependent upon tourism deserve better. Wales deserves better.”