Merthyr Tydfil’s tourism success story is continuing apace, with the sector having a £100m economic impact locally in 2018 – an increase of almost £30m from the previous year.
The 35.4% rise was due to a 41% increase in the number of annual visitors from 1.27m to 1.79m and the number of full-time equivalent jobs supported by tourism up 31% from 917 to 1,200.
The increase in day visitor numbers was due partly to a big rise in attendances at the 17 visitor attractions across the county borough, along with ‘influential factors’ including the opening of the Trago Merthyr store.
Delegates at the County Borough Council’s annual ‘Destination Day’ conference heard that the number of staying visitor days was also up 13.6%. This was due to the growth of bed stock, particularly in the non-serviced sector – hostel-type accommodation, caravan and camping, an extra 104 bed spaces at Rock UK Summit Centre and a mushrooming number of Airbnb establishments.
Presenting the findings, Interim Chief Executive Ellis Cooper told the conference:
“There are many exciting plans and projects in development for Merthyr Tydfil – too many to mention – but the following, which are already beginning to come to fruition, are merely a snapshot of all the good work that will happen.”
He then outlined some of the key projects taking place between 2019-2022, including the development of a Cyfarthfa heritage area masterplan, Valleys Regional Park funding, Merthyr Tydfil’s new bus station, Phase 2 developments at BikePark Wales and a £417,000 grant secured from Welsh Government’s Sustainable Management Scheme for preventative works at Taf Parc Bargoed.
The Orbit Business Centre event had a diverse range of speakers including experts in the fields of tourism, architecture and construction, along with entrepreneurs providing adventure activities, accommodation, shopping, dining and entertainment.
Council Leader Cllr Kevin O’Neill said the continued growth of the tourism sector in the past 10 years had been consistent.
“We only need to look at the increase in accommodation providers here over the past decade- there were 19 businesses trading in 2009, compared to 53 now and still growing,” he added.
“In 2018, STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Model) figures captured that Merthyr Tydfil benefited from over 1.79m day visitors, with over 200,000 people staying overnight for an average of two nights per stay.”
Cllr O’Neill said the authority would ‘strive to grow and promote our existing offer and produce collaborative packages to encourage people to stay longer in the locality, increase the number of staying visitors and strengthen the local economy even further’.
“We have dedicated resources in our economic development team to work in collaboration with you in order to drive forward a dynamic programme of destination priorities.”
Other speakers at the conference included Ian Ritchie, whose team of architects is working on designing the Cyfarthfa Plan aimed at creating an international heritage centre.
A talk was also given by Trago Merthyr Site Manager Richard Mears and Business Improvement Manager Ellie Robertson about the second phase of developments at the store, including a petrol filling station and further leisure facilities.
The Council’s Programme Manager, Ryan Barry, outlined his proposals for the development of a new ‘Destination Management Plan’ and its strategic alignment to Visit Wales’s new Action Plan for Wales, as well as future projects being developed by the Community Regeneration team.
Destination Management Co-ordinator Lyndsey Handley said:
“The Destination Day event was the biggest and most successful one we’ve had to date. The delegates were massively impressed by the huge amount of positive change that’s happening in our county borough and went away feeling very confident about the future of tourism in Merthyr Tydfil.”