Adrian Barsby, chair of Wales Tourism Alliance, which represents all sectors of the tourism industry in Wales, casts a critical eye over the manifestos produced by political parties for the National Assembly for Wales election.
Towards the end of last year the Wales Tourism Alliance (WTA) produced a National Assembly for Wales’ election briefing document for political parties and prospective candidates setting out what we believed to be the key issues facing the nation’s tourism industry.
Tourism is a mainstay of the Welsh economy with one in every seven jobs in Wales dependent on the industry, which has 18,000 businesses and contributes £3.1 billion to GDP.
You can therefore appreciate why the WTA has been closely examining the election manifestos produced by the political parties in Wales. Have they taken on board the points we raised in our briefing document? Do they recognise the importance of the tourism industry to the overall Welsh economy?
Here is what we discovered: Five of the six party manifestos have sections specifically on tourism, the Labour Party being the odd one out as it does not mention the industry. Labour’s approach to setting out its economic proposals is more ‘cross cutting’ and it would no doubt argue that its proposals to create a more prosperous Wales embrace the tourism industry too.
The Conservative and Labour manifestos have proposals for reform of business rates which are aimed specifically at small businesses, in which category most tourism businesses fall. Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats also have proposals for the reform of business rates which may benefit some tourism businesses.
UKIP and the Liberal Democrats support the case which has been made by the tourism industry throughout the UK for a reduction in VAT on tourism accommodation and visitor attraction to 5%, while the Conservative Party would establish a capped fund for small and medium sized tourism businesses to help them manage VAT bills and sustain quality jobs.
The Green Party argues for tourism developments which can have year round community use and for local authorities to develop sustainable transport plans which would include bike and electric car hire at railway stations.
Interestingly three of the six parties – Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives -include proposals for Visit Wales to ‘morph’ into an industry led body, a 21st century Wales Tourist Board.
The WTA is pleased that many of the proposals for the development of the tourism industry In Wales which feature in the manifestos reflect points made in our election brief. We said in the brief that the place of Visit Wales in the Welsh Government administration needs to be kept under review to ensure it can carry out its role effectively and that any changes should be discussed with the industry.
There have been requests from within the industry for Visit Wales to be set up in a way which allows greater industry involvement. In the light of specific proposals to this effect from three of the parties contesting the election, this is something which must be seriously considered by the incoming administration.
We await the outcome of the election on May 5 with great interest and look forward working with the new government to ensure that manifesto commitments relating to the tourism industry in Wales are kept.