Rt Hon Kevin Brennan MP
Labour Member of Parliament for Cardiff West
Dear Mr Brennan,
The Wales Tourism Industry – WTA Highlighting Urgent Issues
As the newly appointed Chair of the Wales Tourism Alliance I thought it appropriate to firstly introduce myself – and secondly to bring to your attention some Wales tourism issues, which have relevance to your role as Shadow Minister for Heritage and the Arts.
The tourism industry in Wales has consistently demonstrated a very high return on public investment and has been at the forefront of the UK’s economic recovery. VisitBritain calculates that it only takes £26 of public funding to generate £624 of additional tourism revenue for the UK – which equates to just £225 of investment to create an additional job. This is supported by Office for National Statistics research which show that tourism generates considerable additional employment, export earnings and revenue for the Exchequer.
Within Wales tourism generates approximately £6 billion of visitor spend and provides jobs for 172,000 people. In economic terms it contributes 13% of GDP to the nation which is significantly higher than in England (8.6%), Scotland (10.4%) and Northern Ireland (5%). But tourism in Wales operates in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, which can be evidenced by the recent publication of IPS data. Feedback received from our members invariably focuses on rising operating costs together with threats posed by external agencies and even the threat of new taxes, while other industries receive substantial subsidies.
96% of our businesses in Wales are small, even micro, providing employment and self-employment where other industries simply cannot. Many are subsistence in nature, providing a sustainable income where little or no other employment exists. Therefore although they may not contribute large amounts to National GDP they are vitally important to our local communities and deserve greater attention than they currently get.
The Wales Tourism Alliance believes that to maintain and grow our market share, a number of measures should be considered by the UK Government and be part of the new Tourism Sector Deal specifically highlighting Wales. This would alleviate financial pressures, provide a more equitable trading environment – and create additional opportunities:
Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to draw your attention to a number of issues that the Wales Tourism Alliance members are particularly concerned about with regard to the lack of support we feel we are receiving from UK led initiatives:
VisitEngland’s Remit seems to be being confused with VisitBritain’s remit. Visit England’s role is to concentrate on English domestic tourism marketing and development and VisitBritain’s is to concentrate on overseas marketing for the UK. It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the two organisations, it is understandable, particularly following cuts to VE’s budget in recent years that the two organisations working physically together are going to become ever closer. We are concerned that Wales’ visibility is too low with regard to VB Marketing. The default seems to err toward Wales simply being treated as a region of England. To counter this a pronounced boost should be provided to Visit Britain to place Wales on a level playing field with England.
Is GREAT delivering for Wales? Related to the above, The Wales Tourism Alliance is generally supportive of the GREAT campaign, we recognise that it has been very successful in establishing a coherent brand for UK Plc and has markedly increased recognition of the UK in target markets, however, the GREAT campaign is not a substitute for direct marketing of Wales overseas. Successful international tourism marketing of Wales requires long-term strategic investment that cannot be provided through an initiative that generally targets markets more susceptible to English London centric product. Does Wales potentially needs specific campaigns in overseas markets that are not part of the GREAT campaign, but crucial to Wales?
On-line Travel Agencies have had a huge impact on our local NfP destination management organisations and partnerships, we need to find new means of support to bring our disparate industry together locally.
Review current tax rules on home sharing, which has particular relevance in terms of second home ownership in Wales and introduce regulatory requirements for those individuals renting property within the sharing economy, not visible to HMRC, to ensure guest safety and to minimise risk;
Reduce current rate of VAT, which would help mitigate the UK’s low ranking by the World Economic Forum in terms of tourism price competitiveness (135 out of 136 countries);
Increase the minimum threshold for employer National Insurance Contributions to stimulate recruitment by smaller businesses;
Ours is an industry that post BREXIT contains considerable opportunities for growth, but growth that is dependent on both Wales devolved Government and the UK Government delivering in partnership. We believe that the value of tourism to the UK and Welsh economy, requires more attention in relation to the above points we raise.
Adrian Greason-Walker, WTA Policy Advocate and myself would be happy to meet with you to discuss the issues further. And of course if the WTA can be of any help to you at all, over any matters, please do not hesitate to get in contact.
All good wishes.
Chair - Wales Tourism Alliance