Source: Mike McBey (via. Wikimedia Commons)
Economy and Transport

We can’t afford to drive away tourists

The visitor economy is estimated to be worth some £3.1 billion to the Welsh economy annually, employing more than 100,000 people writes Darren Millar MS.

Here in North Wales, thousands of livelihoods depend on the tourism industry and it has therefore been truly devastating to witness so many businesses in the sector fighting for survival over the past 12 months. 

Covid-19 has served them a devastating blow, but their suffering has undoubtedly been heightened by the Welsh Government and its response to the pandemic. 

Instead of providing this desperate industry with the help it needed, and continues to need, the Labour administration in Wales has at times taken decisions which have seemed set on undermining the industry.

Businesses have had to fight for funding every step of the way and have been forced to miss out on trade because of daft decisions by Drakeford.

For example, last year Labour kept tourism businesses and attractions closed in Wales for longer than elsewhere in the UK and pandered to anti-English sentiments by shutting the Welsh border.

This approach led to many tourists choosing to holiday elsewhere and feeling unwelcome. 

Regrettably, it appears that Labour Ministers may not have learnt from these mistakes with tourism businesses in Wales set to miss out on trade yet again. 

With just a few weeks left until Easter, tourism businesses are desperate to know when they can reopen. 

In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has laid out a roadmap with an indicative date of 12th April for people to stay overnight away from home, but when I challenged the Tourism Minister on this in the Senedd this week, he said the Welsh Government will not be announcing any dates for reopening, leaving the tourism sector in Wales in limbo yet again. 

Operators are on their knees, my inbox is full of their frantic pleas for help, yet the Welsh Government continually fails to provide them with the answers, clarity and support they are so eager for and need to plan ahead.

And now, to add insult to injury to this overlooked sector, Labour intends to keep the misery coming as they consider new taxes on tourists and charges on vital transport corridors across Wales. 

Before the pandemic, 42,000 jobs across North Wales were reliant on the tourism industry – which adds up to one in every seven jobs in the area.

We just can’t afford to drive away tourists. Too many local jobs and livelihoods depend on it. 

So much hard work has gone into trying to regenerate our seaside towns here along the North Wales coast but a short-sighted tax on tourists would put all that in jeopardy.

It could devastate communities and make regeneration efforts in towns like Colwyn Bay, Rhyl and Llandudno even more difficult and have a crippling effect on holiday caravan parks, hotels, tourist attractions and other businesses that rely on trade from visitors to make ends meet.

The same is true of Labour’s plans for road pricing on key arteries in our road network. North Wales needs a driving tax like a hole in the head. 

Welsh Labour has been in power for over 20 years and in that time they’ve not done enough to improve public transport in North Wales. Now they want to punish people for using the roads. 

It’s another policy dreamt up by someone in the Cardiff Bay bubble that doesn’t know what it’s actually like to get about in North Wales. Driving on the A55, A494, A5 and other trunk roads for work, shopping, the school run and other purposes is an essential part of daily life for most people in North Wales and they should not be out of pocket for that, particularly when so many are already struggling due to the pandemic. 

Instead of these ludicrous plans the Welsh Government should be looking at ways of supporting Wales to recover from the pandemic. To focus on anything else right now is sheer madness.

Darren Millar

Darren Millar is the Member of the Senedd for Clwyd West .

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