Failing infrastructure: Holding a nation back
The Welsh Affairs Committee last week published its findings from its inquiry into Wales as a global tourist destination. The findings were disheartening, but hardly surprising.
The overarching theme was the under-utilisation of a country with so much to offer. ‘Wales significantly underperforms in attracting international visitors in comparison to the rest of the UK’, was how the report put it.
As an employee of a leading communications agency that specialises in enhancing client reputations, it was pleasing to see the focus on developing a ‘Welsh brand’. And as a member of SEC Newgate’s local advocacy team, it was equally satisfying to see the report highlight the importance of developing the country’s transport infrastructure.
As a North Walian, I can't help but notice the untapped potential of the region as a tourist attraction. An encounter I had on Newborough Beach with an Italian couple reinforced this observation, as they are the only international tourists I can recall ever meeting in North Wales.
While the development of a brand is of course crucial, a reality any comms professional is acutely aware of, the possibility of achieving this is thwarted by the country’s failing infrastructure. There’s no point attracting visitors to the country if they can’t then get here.
I wrote earlier in the year about my unease towards the Welsh Government’s Road Review. I know I am running the risk of sounding like a broken record, but the point stands. The reality is that insufficient road connections, congested routes, and limited public transport options restrict visitors' accessibility to various destinations within Wales.
Cardiff features heavily in the report, which is understandable given the population base. However, North Wales’ proximity to major cities is not mentioned, improved links to the airports in these cities would certainly benefit the region.
Not only is the tourism industry being undermined, so is the country’s wider economy. Infrastructure projects, particularly transport projects, are a catalyst for further investment and both the UK and Welsh Governments need to consider this. SEC Newgate’s local advocacy team specialises in major infrastructure projects, we can, therefore, appreciate just how much local communities can benefit from the right project in the right place.
The report highlights that while £28.4 billion was spent in the UK by international tourists in 2019, only £514.6 million (2%) of this was spent in Wales. Until improvements are made to the transport infrastructure, it’s very unlikely that this is going to improve.
Wales will continue to be at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the UK. A sad situation for the Welsh economy, but even more sad for the international tourists who are missing out on the diverse landscapes, historical sites, cultural attractions, and vibrant communities that Wales has to offer.