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What Opportunities Will There Be for Wales as we Come Out of the Lockdown?

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There are opportunities for Wales in domestic tourism and the diversification of manufacturing industries, North Wales business specialist Ashley Rogers said in the latest Wales Business Review.

Ashley, who is commercial director of the North Wales and Mersey Dee Business Council, was taking part in the weekly show, hosted by former First Minister Carwyn Jones, with investment expert Kevin Gardiner.

Speaking before the Welsh and UK governments announced a partial relaxation of some lockdown measures, Ashley said:

“From a North Wales perspective, we have a huge opportunity around domestic tourism. When the lockdown restrictions are lifted, what we’re looking at are 66 million people who may be not that keen to travel abroad because of the potential for another lockdown and being stranded, so I think we will see an upsurge in domestic tourism. Maybe not an immediate return to mass tourism and mass events, but certainly on a smaller scale, and North wales is really well placed for that.”

Ashley added that there were also strong opportunities for manufacturing, which makes up around 20% of the North Wales economy.

“Even in the areas which are most exposed to Covid-19, such as Airbus manufacturing into the commercial airline industry, I think they are so keyed up now from a technical perspective that they could probably turn their hand to many different alternatives, as they have done manufacturing ventilators over in Deeside. So I think diversification is also potentially another opportunity for those manufacturers that have been exposed to Covid-19,” he said.

“In North Wales we’re quite evenly split; 20% of the economy is in manufacturing, which is double the UK figure of 10%, and 20% is in tourism. So if you’re talking about rebalancing not just north-south, but away from London into the regions, we’re pretty well balanced at the moment already.

“I think for us, spreading the risk is key, because we will get future shocks, there’s no way around that; and therefore if we are more flexible and able to diversify more readily and we’re skilled up in that way, then you only become more resilient as you move down the line.”

Kevin Gardiner, who is a global investment strategist with Rothschild Wealth Management, and member of the Cardiff Capital Region’s Economic Growth Partnership, said there was a role for more public sector action in the future.

“One of the things we have in place in the Cardiff Capital Region is the City Deal, there is a City Deal in place further along the coast, and there are City Deals in Mid and North Wales as well, so there is room for public policy to make a difference there,” he said.

Kevin said the highest levels of economic activity took place in the north east and south east parts of Wales, and policy initiatives on things such as transport might help rebalance the economy.

“Transport connections are always hugely important, the railway networks are improving all the time, that’s got to help the spread of business from east to west. At some stage even the motorway network might I guess be improved, [although] I realise that’s some way in the future,” he said.

“You have a corridor in the north and a corridor in the south, and both regions are doing relatively well because they’re both part of that east-west transition; they’ve got big centres of population close to hand, not just in Wales, that’s helped tremendously. It’s the valleys and mid Wales, the far west part of Mid Wales, that economically and physically are the most difficult parts to get to and most difficult to support perhaps.”

The Wales Business Review with Carwyn Jones is available to watch on Business News Wales.