Wales politics

Row over budget to attract overseas tourists to Wales

Snowdon mountain railway
Image caption Tories said Wales' beauty should be showcased to visitors

Figures suggesting a cut in the budget for promoting Wales to overseas visitors have led to Tory criticism.

The Welsh government spent £1.5m marketing Wales abroad in 2012-11, compared to £2.6m the previous year.

Conservatives claimed spending on marketing had ceased for Ireland and Spain, but the Welsh government said in fact it was active in both countries through different budgets.

Labour also emphasised its focus on the bigger UK market, particularly England.

A freedom of information request showed the overseas marketing budget rose for three years, before being cut last year.

The US marketing budget was the biggest last year at £473,000. Four years ago it was £720,000.

Tory AM Suzy Davies said: "These figures suggest the Welsh Labour government is missing a massive open goal in failing to market Wales to our closest overseas neighbours.

"It is easier to get from Spain or Ireland to Wales than from almost any other country in the world, yet the Welsh government doesn't spend a penny marketing Wales there."

She added: "The Welsh government's budget for marketing Wales almost halved last year at a time of economic uncertainty when our tourist industry needs more overseas visitors.

'Showcase our nation'

"Wales is a beautiful country with so much to offer to overseas visitors, but this will go to waste unless we effectively showcase our nation to the world and tap into the tourist potential in countries with direct transport links to Wales."

Wales Tourism Alliance chief executive Adrian Greason-Walker said the vast majority of visitors to Wales came from the rest of UK, and 91% of them from England.

"In priorities it's England that we are most concerned about," he said.

"Generally speaking we want to see most of the resources focused on the English market because that's what our businesses in Wales are saying to us.

"We would like to see growth in the overseas market of course, but it's very tough particularly in Europe because of the economy."

A Welsh government spokesperson said it was "actively marketing and investing in Ireland and Spain".

"The Ireland campaign was incorporated into the UK and Ireland campaign in 2009 and accounts for 10% of this budget. A €1.1m [£907,400] campaign was launched in Spain this financial year, specifically targeting Catalonia.

"It supports ongoing marketing activities to raise the profile of Wales and to maximise the benefits of direct flights from Spain into Cardiff.

"As these activities are funded through different budget lines they are not reflected in the overseas tourism marketing campaign figures (obtained through the freedom of information request).

"The domestic UK market accounts for over 80% of all tourism expenditure in Wales and is the focus of our main marketing activity."

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