Our Welsh tourism sector needs a roadmap for recovery from the pandemic and the lockdown and it needs it quickly writes Paul Davies.
2020 and 2021 will be years that we won’t forget. We have seen tragedy for families and economic hardship for businesses and workers who have lost what they have built. Many businesses will recover and rebuild, many won’t. However in building a future beyond the pandemic we need firstly to give people and businesses the vision and optimism they need.
Politicians who lead our country should inspire and give hope, and this is badly needed to restart our economy, with an indication of timescale that allows for businesses to put plans in place.
The announcement by the UK Government that the lockdown will gradually come to an end by June in England is terrific news. It gives that hope and optimism to everyone affected by the virus, and thanks to both the vaccine roll out and the sacrifices made by people the length and breadth of the country, we can now see that better times are coming.
Yes, it is cautious but at least we know that the end game is in sight, and normal life will return.
So, what about Wales? What do we have to give us confidence that there is a comparable timeframe, so people know when they’ll be able to see their family and friends, when they’ll be able to socialise, go to the gym, and yes go on holiday either here or abroad?
The answer is sadly nothing, with no announcement from the Labour led Welsh Government for anything beyond the end of March, it’s almost as though they don’t understand what businesses need to plan ahead.
Tourism is a key part of our economy and it’s obvious why this is the case. We are a nation of rich cultural heritage, a language that is one of the oldest in Europe, a coastline, mountains and national parks, and a hospitality industry which puts our nation as a go to destination. The best of anywhere!
According to the Wales Tourism Alliance who gave evidence to the Senedd a few years ago:
“The total contribution, including impacts through the supply chain and capital investment, amounts to some £6.2 billion or 13.3% of the total economy. The direct contribution is £2.7 billion or 8% of the economy. 170,000 people are in employment generated by the industry, 12.7% of the workforce. The industry plays a greater role than in any of the other countries of the UK.”
These figures predate the pandemic. Much will have been lost, but we can rebuild again, and tourism has to be front and centre of our recovery, because we have the environment and talent not just to regain our position but to do better.
I am biased when it comes to the constituency I represent but it is clear to me that Pembrokeshire is the jewel in the Welsh tourism crown. Yes it’s an amazing place to live but we share it with many more who visit on a regular basis. In my view there is no other county in Wales with so much to offer, a proud history and a future to build together, which stands out in our cultural heritage, our contribution to farming and our rural way of life, and our coastline which offers the best welcome of anywhere in the world.
Andrew RT Davies has already called, and repeatedly so, for a roadmap out of the lockdown and I spoke in the Welsh Parliament chamber on 9 February calling on the Welsh Government to set out the impact on our much valued tourism industry and the steps to reopen the sector. During that session I said that tourism plays a huge role in Pembrokeshire, and supports many local jobs in the area. It’s not just the direct employment but the local supply chains who are so much a part of our economy. This is true of many counties across Wales.
I want to see a roadmap to support our economy, to give it the confidence to plan for the immediate short term with Easter on the horizon, and clarity for the summer season too. Our businesses and their staff deserve nothing less, and our nation needs this certainty.