Scrap Visit Wales and let the industry take the lead
A future Welsh Conservative Government would scrap Visit Wales and replace it with an arms-length body outside Welsh Government.
Shadow Minister for Tourism, Suzy Davies, said the Welsh Labour’s decision to shut down the Wales Tourist Board in 2006 was “a huge mistake” and pledged to inject an entrepreneurial spirit into the industry if the party form a Welsh Government in 2016.
Welsh Conservatives recently undertook a detailed consultation with 142 Welsh tourism businesses, with just 28.7% backing Visit Wales to remain part of Welsh Government.
Despite a more concerted effort by Visit Wales in the last two years, many of the businesses who took part in the process raised concerns over Visit Wales’ “unimaginative” promotion of Wales as a tourist destination. Whilst figures show that visitor numbers are rising, Welsh Conservatives believe that the industry would do much better if it were allowed to take direct responsibility for overall strategy.
An arms-length body would oversee a “shift in culture” at the heart of Welsh tourism and would embrace the introduction of industry elected representatives; a move backed by 85% of businesses who took part in the recent consultation.
Speaking at the Eisteddfod in Montgomeryshire today, Suzy Davies said:
“It was a huge mistake to scrap the Wales Tourist Board in the first place. Clearly it needed to be refreshed, but its loss rendered a world-recognised brand obsolete at the stroke of a pen.
“Whilst there is undoubtedly talent in Visit Wales, as part of a government department, it is crippled by its risk-averse nature.
“It should come as no surprise that the recent improvements in the government's focus come as the result of the Minister's appointment of a board of independent experts with extensive experience within the tourism industry. So, why not just let the experts get on with running it for themselves?
"I get plenty of complaints from all kinds of tourism provider who feel they are not genuinely consulted by Visit Wales on strategic decisions, or that they are not encouraged to buy into the messages conveyed by the department's promotion campaign. There is also a level of confusion of what businesses can reasonably expect from Visit Wales.
“So, let the industry take more control. A Welsh Conservative Government would scrap Visit Wales and replace it with an arms-length organisation, which would be free to work with the public, private and third sectors; it would be free from the structures of the civil service and transparently accessible to all without the need to channel difficult questions through a Minister."
In the recent consultation, 75% of tourism businesses felt that Visit Wales could make better use of their resources to promote Welsh tourism.
Many businesses lamented the “uninspiring, unimaginative” television adverts in recent years – with just 17.35% believing that enough is spent on marketing.
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said that a “shift in culture” would boost creativity.
“Ultimately, Welsh tourism needs a shift in culture, with the industry itself taking the lead.
“You won’t find too many businesses in Wales who believe that politicians are the best people to drive tourism forward, and an injection of entrepreneurial spirit would boost innovation and creativity – particularly with the dire marketing we have seen in recent years.
“We want to put power back in the hands of Welsh businesses and communities, and this announcement is part of a broader Welsh Conservative drive to de-centralise power and cut Welsh Government down to size.”