North Wales' growing reputation as the adventure capital of Europe will be enhanced as some of its leading attractions prepare to invest £30 million between them, creating around 500 new jobs over the next few years.
The famous five – Adventure Parc Snowdonia, GreenWood Family Park, Llechwedd, RibRide and Zip World – have joined forces with North Wales Tourism, supported by the Welsh Government’s tourism team Visit Wales, to launch a new drive to promote the region.
The aim of the £165,000 campaign is to increase visitor numbers to North Wales and boost the tourism economy – which is already worth £3.2 billion in the region – by an extra two per cent, equivalent to £64 million.
All five firms are chipping in to help fund the marketing plan to target the Midlands and the North West across a variety of media platforms.
It will incorporate social media influencers, radio advertising and digital billboard advertising on trams in Manchester city centre and high footfall areas including Liverpool Airport and Liverpool Underground.
Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism which is leading the campaign, said:
“The primary aim is to enhance North Wales’ position in the global marketplace by growing and leveraging our existing strength which is adventure. This will make us more economically diverse.
“We are looking to promote North Wales as the adventure capital of Europe. This campaign has been developed by the private sector, supported by Visit Wales, and approaches adventure as an all-encompassing concept – not just focusing on adrenalin-driven activities but the region’s distinct heritage and the outdoors.
“One of the key strengths which brought us together is adventure, and this could include adventure on mountains, on beaches, or adrenalin-driven adventures – it’s endless.
“We want to position North Wales as a year-round tourism destination raising awareness and promoting experiences and activities that take place throughout the whole year.
“We need to be one team and join up our efforts. There are huge opportunities out there if we are. We need to play to our strengths. We have something that is unique and our uniqueness is our adventure offer.”
North Wales continues to out-perform all other parts of Wales in terms of growth, with the number of people coming to the region rocketing to nearly 30 million.
Tourism already employs more than 42,000 people across North Wales, which accounts for up to one in every seven jobs in the area.
The booming visitor numbers have already given operators confidence to invest in major infrastructure projects, with the adventure sector leading from the front.
Sean Taylor, president and founder of Gwynedd’s world famous Zip World, said the firm had invested between £14 million and £15 million into the region during the past five years alone, creating more than 700 new jobs, and expects staff numbers to grow by an extra 50% in the next five years.
The business is also at the forefront of new camera technology using artificial intelligence, enabling visitors to capture in HD their adventure experiences and self-edit and customise their videos.
“We believe we are leading the way in the UK and Europe,” said Sean.
“It’s important that this work is driven by a destination-approach – it’s not just Zip World, it’s about great restaurants, cafes and accommodation. We need to all pull together to give a great experience encompassing all demographics.
“The average age of our visitors’ mid-week in spring or summer at one of our sites is between 55 and 60. It’s not your typical tourism family; we have religious groups, educational groups, charities and sports groups visiting.
“If people are going to come for a great holiday they need a great experience overall. Destination management needs to be top notch from litter to signage to cleanliness, that’s what creates a world class destination.”
Justin Everley, commercial director for Adventure Parc Snowdonia, home to the world-first inland surf lagoon, said:
“The transformation in the North Wales brand over the last decade has been nothing short of astonishing. It has gone from being a go-to destination for modest bucket and spade holidays for UK families, to being what is now Europe’s most exciting destination for adventure.
“That level of transformation hasn’t come about by chance; it is the result of a concerted public-private partnership which has not only reinvented the brand and increased visitor numbers – it has ensured we have a robust and sustainable visitor economy which still has so much potential for growth.”
The original Surf Snowdonia Lagoon development cost around £18 million. Phase two of the project, including Adrenaline Indoors – an indoor adventure centre – and the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, will amount to a further £16 million.
The proposed development will effectively double Adventure Parc Snowdonia’s workforce, creating more than 100 new jobs, and expand Adventure Parc Snowdonia’s annual season from nine months to 12.
Phil Scott, who co-founded adventure Anglesey tour boat company RibRide, said:
“North Wales has always been the backdrop and context for adventure and now that adventure is available to everyone of every age and ability.
“We are quite unique as a region and this is not the first time we have worked together. If you promote the region by default we promote ourselves.
“We’re a relatively small player but our team has grown from four to eight full-time staff over the last five years, while our seasonal employees and booking staff have increased threefold.
“We have invested in the past five years alone some £600,000 to £700,000. We already have the RibRides and we have a new adventure for next year called the FoilRide, which is a surfboard on a hydroplane powered with an electric motor.
“This is a British first which not only ensures we stay at the forefront of adventure tourism but is also signposting the way for a carbon-free future.
“We are already a year-round business and we put boats out every day of the year. We want to encourage more visitors to understand that Wales is weatherproof and that Wales is open every day of the year.”
Juliana Delaney, Chief Executive of the Continuum Group, which owns Gwynedd’s GreenWood Family Park, said the firm had invested £750,000 into the business already, including developing and training existing staff. Continuum purchased Greenwood in 2017-18 and plans further investment in visitor experiences over the next five years.
“This campaign was very much led and initiated by us at Greenwood. We wanted to see a North Wales tourism personality developing that we could take to our marketplace,” said Juliana.
“It was not difficult to put a name or a brand to because we are all involved in adventure and the great thing is that adventure and the Great Outdoors is something North Wales doesn’t have to say it owns, because it actually owns it. It is a point of difference to almost anywhere else.
“Yes, you can climb hills somewhere else but it’s the combination of the Great Outdoors, the landscape and the top notch visitor attractions that make it such a brand and an offer that we can own.
“It’s something we want to begin and continue to invest in as the private sector supported by the public sector. It’s great that we can work together. It’s been a really positive experience working with the Welsh Government and Go Wales.”
Michael Bewick, managing director of the slate mine attraction Llechwedd, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, added:
“It’s quite important that on this occasion we have made a financial contribution to support a bigger project. By coming together we are singing with a louder voice.
“I like to think adventure has a broader meaning. For some people travelling into the mind is just as adventurous as it is for someone going on a zip line. North Wales is full of different sorts of adventures.
“We also want to focus our efforts on the shoulder seasons of the spring and autumn. We know it can be incredibly busy in summer but from a business perspective and long-term sustainability perspective we need to be bringing people here all year round.
“It’s about growing the market and ensuring the market spreads across the year. That will bring benefits to all of the different tourism operators in North Wales, and judging by how much the economy is sustained by tourism this is important stuff.”