Tourism leaders have called on Welsh Government ministers to listen to the industry when developing policies that will impact businesses.
The call came from Wales Tourism Alliance (WTA) chairman Suzy Davies and Steve Hughson, chairman of both the Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum and the Event Wales Industry Advisory Group, when speaking at the Mid Wales Tourism Conference.
The sell-out conference, which attracted 120 delegates as well as exhibitors and sponsors, was held at the Metropole Hotel and Spa, Llandrindod Wells. The event was organised by MWT Cymru, an independent organisation representing around 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.
Mrs Davies said the WTA, which represents around 6,000 businesses in all sectors of tourism industry across Wales, was working with others to restore the industry’s relationship with the Welsh Government.
There had been a breakdown in communications stemming from the introduction of the 182-day rule for self-catering accommodation in Wales. Self-catering accommodation that fails to be occupied for 182 days of the year now risks paying much higher council tax.
The WTA has been talking to the Welsh Government about the impact of the 182-day rule, a tourism tax and statutory registration of tourism accommodation, but Mrs Davies said it had not been listening and businesses had lost faith in the consultation processes.
“The current engagement structures don’t work for either the Welsh Government or the tourism industry,” she added. “The industry must be in the room when the Welsh Government shapes and designs policy and we need to be listened to.”
She said there were signs that the Welsh Government was now beginning to listen to the industry’s collective voice, as a review of the 182-day rule had been promised and the tourism tax had been delayed until 2027.
“There is now a much better understanding of what we have been all saying for the past 18 months,” she added. “We must never find ourselves in this position again which is why we have organised a symposium in Newtown in January and we hope the Welsh Government will attend.”
Mr Hughson also stressed the importance of a united tourism industry working closely with the Welsh Government to influence and shape policies to ensure that they work well when introduced.
“We can get the Welsh Government and Visit Wales to change, so long as we work in partnership in a polite, respectful and evidence-based way,” he said. “It has never been more important that we work together.”
Regional tourism forums across Wales had an important role in making Welsh Government ministers in different policy areas aware of the cumulative effect of their policies on the tourism industry, he added.
MWT Cymru chairman Rowland Rees-Evans thanked both Mrs Davies and Mr Hughson for their work on behalf of tourism businesses during a challenging time for the industry.
He referred to four consultation papers issued by the Welsh Government.
“They will undoubtedly have a major impact on the industry when the legislation is implemented,” he said.
“We are already starting to see the effect of 182-day rule on self-catering holidays. As it stands at the moment, next year we will also have full business rates to contend with, among other changes.
“MWT Cymru has always tried to look after its members, business partners and community groups with help and support from our great team who try to get ahead of the curve whenever new legislation, rules and regulations are being put in front of us.”
Despites concerns about new legislation, he said there were positive signs that 2024 could be a better year for tourism businesses. Forward bookings were healthier than the same time last year and there was feeling that people, who did not take a holiday in Mid Wales this year due to the cost of living crisis, would return in 2024.