Queen's Jubilee: Charlotte conducts orchestra in Wales
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Zip World director Sean Taylor gave evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee on Wednesday and said the nation should do more to promote its adventure tourism destinations, amazing food and drink along with its heritage sites. He said: “Its a complicated and long-term strategy how we build brand Wales, and I think we definitely need to get away from sheep, wet weather and – even as a president of my local rugby club – rugby as well. Because football has come to the fore now.”
Mr Taylor was joined by Penderyn Distillery Chief Executive Stephen Davies, Portmeirion Cymru’s Ian Roberts and Paul Lewin from FFestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways.
All three agreed Wales is often “overshadowed” by Scotland, Ireland and England due to its comparatively weak brand.
The Welsh Affairs Committee has been taking evidence about Wales as a global destination for tourists.
Zip World’s director told committee members: “If you look at the brand in Wales, it is fairly weak compared to the Irish brand and the Scottish brand in particular.
“At the moment, I think we get overshadowed quite a bit. You’ve got the Royal Family down in London. You’ve got tartan and Loch Ness in Scotland and in Ireland you’ve got Guinness.”
Further suggestions included using the country’s name Cymru, rather than the English version Wales and placing more emphasis on the Welsh language.
Mr Taylor said: “The language needs to be weaponised as an advantage, not a threat.
“I feel like there’s often negative connotations about the language. But our international and English visitors love the use of the Welsh language.
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“We get school groups from England and by the time they leave they can say ‘bore da’, ‘prynhawn da’, ‘croeso’. They love it, they embrace it.”
Mr Roberts, from the Italianate tourist village Portmeirion, said: “We’ve always put a strong emphasis on the culture, tradition and the language. Over 90 percent of the people who work in Portmeirion speak Welsh.
“We believe tourists who come to Portmeirion enjoy hearing the language and they enjoy hearing that it’s a vibrant and alive language.”
He agreed the Welsh language could be used more, including use of the term Cymru over Wales.
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Mr Roberts said: “As we’ve seen with the Welsh football team, they’ve really developed, on and off the pitch – the use of the Welsh language – and the use of Cymru has been a huge factor in that.”
The businessmen urged the Welsh Government to boost its tourism budget to improve communication about Wales’s identity and why people should visit.
Mr Lewin, who manages the UK’s longest heritage railway, said: “We don’t have a crisp, clear proposition for Wales. And a brand for a country will need to be built on a common theme.
“On a day like today it is shouting out at us that what is common to all the tourist attractions in Wales is the setting. It is the wonderful environment, the wonderful scenery and how accessible it is compared to many other places.”
Mr Davies, boss of Penderyn which exports Welsh, single malt whisky to more than 40 countries, said: “Actually when you come across the Severn Bridge you don’t feel you’re in a country that’s selling itself.
“There’s a huge opportunity to improve communication with visitors that do come into Wales, because they’ve come here, they’ve made the effort, let’s keep them here or bring them back.
“And to sell a much more premium message to people thinking of coming, but who haven’t been here yet.”
A Visit Wales spokeswoman said: “Wales is known as a nation that offers world-leading adventure, creative culture, a thriving language and outstanding protected landscapes.
“Everything we do is inherently Welsh, bringing unique characters, products, enterprises, traditions, culture and language to life in an assured, contemporary way.”
She added that the focus of the Cymru Wales brand is on marketing Wales’s stand-out strengths as a country and showcasing them to people around the world.
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