Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
MP, MR BRIAN
WILSON, MP, DR
MP, MR ALISTAIR
300. Last Tuesday we took evidence from the
BTA and it may well be that I should be addressing my remarks
to them. Last Thursday I went to Olympia to a travel and tourism
exhibition. I found a huge stand for Ireland, taking up an enormous
area, half that size was a Scottish stand and nowhere was there
a stand for Wales. I asked at the desk and nobody was there, not
even bed and breakfast advertising from Wales. I do not know whose
responsibility that was, probably I am not addressing the right
people, but I should like to know your opinions of that.
(Mr Howie) I do not know whose responsibility it was
either, but I should be interested to look into it. It is very
disappointing. It is very important that Wales should be represented
because it has so much to offer. I cannot understand that was
301. It does not matter how good the literature
is if there is none there.
(Mr Howie) Absolutely.
(Mr Murphy) I share your disappointment. If there
was a big exhibition like that, it is a singular omission that
Wales was not there.
302. We may have to address that to the Wales
(Mr Wilson) May I just refer to the Scottish experience?
This discussion could be replicated in Scottish terms. We share
the same sense of frustration about how few visitors to the UK
as a whole actually make it to Scotland. We share the same problems
of how to get them beyond London. I was recently in Tokyo and
I visited the BTA there. I can confirm that a lot of work is going
into trying to devise packages which take people out of London
and get them round the regions of England and also into Scotland
and Wales. In spite of the icons we were talking about earlier,
most people associate a visit to Europe, a visit to Britain, with
London; that is where they want to start. It is difficult to get
them beyond that. It may well be that it is something the Celtic
nations should work on together and try to get packages together
which are actually attracting them on that basis. I am a very
strong believer that what we want to do is sell the difference.
We want to sell the cultural difference and the image difference
and that in a world where increasingly sophisticated travellers
are looking for something that is different, then that is the
strongest asset we have to sell.
303. The tourist boards also told us that their
limited budgets mean that they must target their resources on
those areas where they will have the greatest returnthose
countries from which a number of Wales's foreign tourists already
come. We are told, for example, that there is only one WTB officer
based in North America. What can be done to open up new tourist
markets for Wales? If we do not, I feel we are doomed.
(Mr Howie) More and more, things are turning towards
the internet and more people are getting information from that
so actual offices are perhaps less important than easily accessible
information from the internet. I know that WTB has representation
in Ireland, France, USA and the Netherlands. In these five places,
it already has a presence. We need to speak with the British Tourist
Authority and see whether they can come to any further arrangements
for joint working with the Wales Tourist Board.
304. Would you agree that has been lacking?
(Mr Howie) It is not lacking in the evidence I have
had myself. We have had no complaints from Wales Tourist Board
saying that they are not getting the service they want from BTA.
As I mentioned earlier in the context of the BTA review, they
were happy and said that they had value for money from the BTA.
We must keep our options open and be prepared to see how much
further we can promote Wales.
(Dr Howells) May I try to contribute to this discussion?
It is actually to do with ideas, is it not? That is what it is
to do with. Mr Livsey's constituency has some of the most beautiful
waterfalls you will ever find on the British mainland. There may
be one, I do not know, but I do not recall that there is an equivalent
to the Alpine guide system, for example, where you can turn up,
or telephone, or book through the internet, and book yourself
a guide who will take you as part of a package of visiting a teahouse,
staying at a small hotel or bed and breakfast, take you around
a collection of the waterfalls and there it is as a package. I
guarantee you that if such a service existed, you would have a
constant flow of people wanting to visit that site. What they
have done in Scotlandsomebody mentioned the genius of golfis
trade on that. It is marvellous. They understand that more deals
are done on golf courses by rich businessmen than probably anywhere
else, even worse than the Millennium Stadium in that respect.
The fact is that they realise there is high value added to that
kind of tourism. They target it very precisely. I am glad to see
that we are trying to beat the Scots in attracting the Ryder Cup
and I hope we win. But even if we do not win, we have to start
realising that it is precise targeting which is going to lure
people where we want them lured.
305. I am sure Mr Wilson and Mr Howie would
like to support Wales's bid for the Ryder Cup as well. Seriously,
is there a role for your Department in this? I have tabled a Question
to the Secretary of State for two weeks' time on this.
(Mr Howie) A role for . . .?
306. For your Department in helping to attract
the Ryder Cup to Wales in discussions you may have with the Assembly?
(Mr Howie) Yes, there is a role for our Department.
I would not be involved myself, so I am not quite sure to what
extent we would be able to influence this, but I am sure that
people in my Department will be working on it.
(Mr Wilson) It is a classic case of friendly competition
between different parts of the UK. The important thing is that
the UK as a whole is a winner, no matter what the final outcome
307. Mr Howie's response is quite interesting.
Therefore can we extrapolate from that, that there is also a role
in connection with the Scottish bid? Have we a conflict of interest,
which we have been talking about all morning?
(Mr Howie) I am not the right one to ask. Perhaps
I should not be saying. I do not know the answer.
Mr Llwyd: I do not want to push unnecessarily,
but you knew the answer in connection with the Welsh question
but you do not seem to know it in connection with the Scottish
308. May I couch it in different terms? Would
you say there is a possibility of conflict within a single UK
department when you are getting an outside international bid or
making a bid for an outside international whatever? I think the
answer is probably yes, is it not, otherwise you would have answered
(Mr Howie) It is something we would have to look very
carefully at. Obviously we want to avoid any conflicts.
309. There is no hesitation in my constituency
about communication between Scotland and Wales. The Royal and
Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews has given money to extend Palleg
golf course at Upper Cwmtwrch in my constituency from nine holes
to 18 holes and it has given us a six-figure sum to do that and
we are very grateful to them. They are really good at promoting
golf and it is going to be a very successful venture because it
is right on the boundary of an open cast site which has just been
(Mr Wilson) To help Mr Howie, may I say with absolute
certainty that the Scottish bid for the Ryder Cup has been run
entirely by the devolved administration. I would expect the same
to be true in Wales. There is nobody at a central point trying
to push it one way or another. It is classically something for
different parts of the UK to compete for on equal terms.
310. Not that I in any way doubt what you have
said, Mr Wilson, but could we possibly ask Mr Howie to have a
look at the response he gave and then give us a written response
to the question? That is a bit fairer.
(Mr Howie) Absolutely; yes, I shall check.
311. I have no doubt what Mr Wilson is saying
is right anyway but it would be interesting.
(Dr Howells) I was at the launch, as was the Secretary
of State, of the London end of the bid for the Ryder Cup to go
to Newport. I have rarely seen a worse presentation in my life.
When the fancy video was shown, computer aided, I said to the
gentleman standing next to me that there was something wrong,
it looked as though it had been recorded through a sock. He said,
"No, no, no. I'm sure this is artistic". Then Serbo-Croat
started to appear on the screen and then it just went phut and
that was the end of it. It was unbelievable let me tell you.
312. I shared that experience.
(Mr Murphy) Let nobody detract from the importance
of the bid which all of us heartily support. It is only five miles
from where I live. I am sure the DCMS will reply to you in writing
in a tone of absolute neutrality.
Chairman: I am sure and I hope that the bid
is dealt with in the same way.
313. Last week we were in North Wales and we
visited Snowdonia and we came across a debate there which is happening
in environmentally sensitive areas across Britain about wanting
to promote tourism on the one hand and then being concerned about
environmental damage and the effect on the quality of the product
you are trying to sell. What is the Government doing to promote
sustainable tourism, particularly in those sensitive areas?
(Mr Howie) The Government is very aware of sustainable
tourism and it is very keen that the pace and the way that tourism
is developed is alert to the effects on the environment. Ministers
in Government got together for a tourism summit last March and
another is planned for this March, at which sustainable development
was discussed. It is being looked at across all Government Departments
to see how each can contribute in the form of transport and tourism
and how policies can integrate.
314. In some parts of our wonderful country
it is becoming fairly critical. It sounded as though it is not
being treated with quite the urgency it perhaps should be by having
a few meetings and discussing how we go forward. We really need
some action very soon.
(Mr Howie) Action is taking place following these
summits and it is just the bringing together of the Ministers
I was talking about.
315. Can you give us some examples of action,
of initiatives, of good practice?
(Mr Howie) In the Lake District where there is a large
number of tourists, action was taken to stop the noise of motorboats
spoiling the environment. That is something which springs to my
(Dr Howells) As somebody who has climbed in Snowdon
since 1963, may I say that I have seen an incredible deterioration
of that landscape? It is amazing what has happened. In Mr Livsey's
constituency, the path which runs from the Storey Arms to the
summit of Pen y Fan was a tiny sheeptrack when I first went up
there. It is now like the M1. The point I want to make is that
we have quangos dealing with this. I know. There are councillors
from all the local authorities in Wales who go along to National
Park quangos and they are supposed to sort all this out. If they
have not been sorting it out, what is the point of having them.
If the Assembly feels that it has to take this seriously, they
had better start very quickly because there are problems, there
are very serious problems with the deterioration of some of our
finest assets in our landscape. You are quite right. We have certainly
got to learn from other parts of the world who are facing very
similar things because tourism is such a hugely expanding industry.
It has damaged the landscape in my lifetime very seriously.
316. I back up totally what Dr Howells has said.
You can now see with the naked eye from ten miles away, which
you could not see 20 years ago, the huge scar going up the side
of Pen y Fan, which is the highest point in South Wales in my
constituency. It is very serious indeed. I should like to ask
Mr Howie this. The Council for the National Parks is now setting
up an office in Cardiff, in fact the National Park Officer for
the Brecon Beacons National Park has been appointed there as the
chief of that operation. Is he going to encourage the British
Tourist Authority to market the National Parks in a much more
aggressive way than formerly? The visitors to Brecon Beacons National
Park have gone down in the last ten years; not up, they have gone
down. We are addressing that locally by promoting them like blazes
to try to ensure that everybody knows where they are and what
fantastic attractions they have in terms of landscape. Clearly
tourism now is going on the internet in a big way. What are you
doing with information technology in the British Tourist Authority
to promote National Parks through the internet? People go half
way across the world to see the kind of scenery we have.
(Mr Howie) That is right and these things are on the
internet. You will find them in the visitbritain.com website that
BTA has. Similarly Britain's gardens, including ten in Wales,
have been featured on the internet because that is of specific
interest to people too. Perhaps I might come back to you on the
sustainable development. The BTA are developing sustainable tourism
strategies and action plans so that tourism activity can be sustained
over the long term. Just to tell you that these things are going
on actively just now.
317. Are they being developed or are any in
(Mr Howie) They are being developed at the moment.
318. We should not just talk about National
Parks, we should talk about our other environmentally sensitive
special areas. As the representative of the first Area of Outstanding
Natural Beauty in the country, our AONBs, which everybody accepts
are on a par with the National Parks, should also be promoted
and recognised, but also protected.
(Dr Howells) It is not often I get a chance to do
this about Wales these days. May I say that I think Mr Caton is
absolutely right? We are so frivolous with the way we treat our
landscape in Wales. I shall tell you one of the very worst offenders.
As a child I was able to walk to the top of Craig y Llyn above
Hirwaun and look in any direction and see only wilderness. I look
in any direction now, I see white windmills. I am all for sustainable
power, but I am not for wrecking our landscape and our heritage
for future generations. That sense of loneliness and wilderness
is one of the great attractions of those areas you have mentioned,
not just inside the National Parks, but outside the National Parks.
We have to be much more sensitive. I notice they do not put windmills
on Hampstead Heath and they do not put them on the North Downs
in Surrey, they do not put them on lots of other hills near the
Home Counties. There is plenty of wind around there. They do not
do it of course because they regard them as rather sensitive areas.
They are the last of our little green areas around London. Maybe
we ought to be a bit more sensitive about the way in which we
desecrate our hillsides in that way too.
Chairman: Speaking as Chairman, I could not
agree more. You are absolutely right. How are we going to sell
Wales as a tourist destination if it is covered with windmills
from top to bottom. Ludicrous.
319. During our two-day visit to North Wales
last week, I heard a comment made on the radio asking whether
Wales actually needs more tourists. This was a radio presenter.
Representing a constituency which has a very high percentage of
tourist attractions I was quite appalled to hear that presenter
making such a statement. I put it to you. Does Wales actually
need more tourists, or could economic growth be promoted by encouraging
those who do come to spend more, for example by targeting higher-spending
(Mr Murphy) I certainly think there is no question
that we need more tourists in Wales. It is also interesting to
note that areas which were never tourist areas are becoming them
and that the valleys of south Wales in particular are now becoming
tourist destinations in themselves. In my own constituency Big
Pit, for example, is important in ensuring that people are aware
of how conditions were when people went underground all those
years agonot that long ago in fact in terms of Big Pit.
Obviously it is important to continue to attract people to our
main centres of tourism, whether in north Wales or in west Wales
or wherever. However, there are other parts of Wales which are
equally interesting to tourism from different points of view.
There is a huge potential still there for us to attract as many
people as possible and to ensure that there are more jobs going
into the economy which are associated with tourism. We forget
at our peril the many, many hundreds of thousands of people in
Wales who depend for their livelihood on the tourist industry.
(Dr Howells) We have a huge capacity to soak up a
lot more tourists yet. The point Mrs Williams makes about targeting
tourists is very important actually. In a sense we want to attract
the right kind of tourists, namely those who are going to spend
lots of money in Wales. Mr Caton's constituency is a classic.
That Swansea/Gower environment is extraordinary. A visit to Swansea
market, out to the Gower to see some of the most spectacular coastal
scenery anywhere in the world. What could be better than that?
It would be wonderful if it were presented properly.
(Mr Murphy) The other important aspect of Wales as
a destination for tourists is the diversity in such a small country.
That is the biggest selling point we have, that within a matter
of a few days, if you want to, although it would be unwise, you
need to spread it much more than that, but if you wanted to, within
a week the variety of places you could see and experience in Wales
is probably the greatest variety of any part of western Europe
or indeed beyond. That is what we have to ensure that we develop
over the next decade or two. Coming back to the Assembly, the
activity of the Assembly in this regard, together with what the
British Government are doing as a partnership is the best way
we can achieve it.