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Call for Wales to ‘show caution’ before turning itself into ‘tourist playground’ after visitor boom

31 Aug 2021 3 minutes Read
Tourism on Snowdon. Picture by Hefin Owen (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Language campaigners have called for authorities in Wales to “show caution” before hurrying to expand provision for tourists.

The comments by Cylch yr Iaith follow a boom in the number of tourists visiting Wales this summer due to Covid restrictions on travel abroad.

According to the campaigners, it would be a “mistake” to rush to expand provision, as “over-tourism” could turn parts of Wales into “playgrounds and retirement zones”.

Howard Huws from Cylch yr Iaith said that the surge in the number of tourists this summer had been a “shock” as there was no “adequate provision for them”.

“The lesson of areas in other countries around the world is clear: trying to cater for visitor growth by expanding infrastructure and facilities leads to over-tourism, and destroying not just the exact visitor experience, but the foundation of and the texture of the indigenous community as well,” Howard Huws said.

“An increasing number of coastal and mountainous areas have reached the point of excess, and restrictions must be imposed if we are to prevent more areas from reaching that point. What is needed is to impose restrictions and tighten control, not expand infrastructure.”

‘Lesson’

He said that this expansion of facilities by local authorities included creating more car parks, expanding transport systems, intensifying services at the expense of local taxpayers, expanding holiday destinations, and creating new facilities and destinations.

“That would be a mistake. Expanding the infrastructure can only encourage and facilitate the rise of over-tourism, and intensify its side effects,” he said.

“Local authorities need to exercise caution and consideration. Tourism is a force that needs to be managed and directed carefully if we are to live with it.”

Cylch yr Iaith called for a range of measures to control over-tourism, including:

  • Limiting the percentages of second homes
  • Making the conversion of a dwelling into a second home subject to planning permission
  • Closing legal loopholes that allow tax evasion
  • Encouraging local enterprises that employ local people
  • Regulating and taxing holiday accommodation
  • Tightening of planning controls on tourist developments.

“Wales, especially the Welsh-speaking areas of the west, is already suffering from the effects of over-tourism,” Howard Huws said.

“This is most evident in the increase in second homes and house prices, in the growth of in-migration which is causing a decrease in the percentages of Welsh speakers, and in the poverty of tourist areas.

“These are signs that our areas are turning from places to live and work into playgrounds and retirement zones.

“In the face of increased visitor numbers, and because of pressure from the tourism trade, local authorities risk being intimidated into trying to cope with the situation by expanding the infrastructure to cater specifically for the increase.”

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Stephen
Stephen
24 days ago

So much negativity towards tourism…a vital source of income for many business. Start celebrating the success for a change.

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
24 days ago
Reply to  Stephen

I live in a tourist area. You are right to a point. Problem is its gone beyond saturation and has now become a mono economy. There’s also a different type of tourist this year. More arrogant, more me me me types.

Plus I’ve yet to see any millionaires or wealthy people from tourism – except for the ones that claim grants and are in the know, with a personal network of others in the know.

It’s not just a problem in Wales, or even the UK.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
24 days ago
Reply to  Stephen

Tourism is destroying our language and culture. It accounts for a mere 4% of Cymru’s GDP. Is the loss of our language and its culture really worth so little?

Stephen
Stephen
24 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Lets just destroy our economy then….

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
24 days ago
Reply to  Stephen

We all know the Welsh NHS already struggles to serve the Welsh population in general. Hospitals are always full. Urgent access, even by ‘A’ roads, can still take a long time. Ambulance services are very often at breaking point or not available at all. A large number of tourists can not be safely accommodated and it is dangerous to encourage tourists to think a cheap ‘staycation’ in the Western parts of Wales is a good idea. If this is considered an essential part of the Welsh economy then some sort of local surcharge, to pay for extra health service costs,… Read more »

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
24 days ago
Reply to  Stephen

There are better ways of developing our economy than destroying our country. I don’t think anyone is seriously advocating no tourism at all whatsoever but we should try to develop tourism in a way that doesn’t destroy our local environment, our culture and our language. Otherwise we end up destroying the very thing that attracted the tourists in the first place (except for the language in the case of the English tourists).

Perhaps we should try to develop more ’boutique’ tourism and attract (dare I say it) a better class of tourist – fewer of them but with money.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
24 days ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

I have personally felt that tourism has been promoted as a lazy option by unimaginative politicians unable to come up with the kind of economic plans that would transform our economy and offer jobs that provide a decent standard of living for all. Tourism does have a minor part to play in that economy, but only as the cherry on the cake, and not as the bread and butter as it too often is at present to the level where it makes diversifying local economies unviable due to its overwhelming effects. Certainly I think higher end tourism is a part… Read more »

joy bishop
joy bishop
24 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Can I ask where you got those figures. Tourism accounted for over 6% 5 years ago. If it’s now at 4% the idea to control and contain it is moot

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
24 days ago
Reply to  joy bishop

Some reports claim 6% and others 4%, which I believe is due to slightly different ways of calculation or interpretation. However, my basic point stands that tourism isn’t such the economic godsend that its promoters claim that it is, and with all the extra infrastructure and social costs, I personally doubt that Cymru actually derives that much economic benefit overall.

O Rob
O Rob
24 days ago

Unfortunately we’ve just voted a unionist labour government back in so the chances of anything being done to control over tourism within the next 5 years is virtually zero

joy bishop
joy bishop
24 days ago

We need to get real with this one and be really honest with ourselves. Buying a house is a 2 way process. It’s both greedy sellers as well as rich buyers that have caused the rise in house prices. It takes a very ‘committed to the cause’ seller to refuse a once in a lifetime chance to make thousands from selling their homes. Often houses are the only financial legacy we have for our kids. A family member bought a house in one of our most rural areas for less than a grand in the late 50s. It’s now valued… Read more »

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
24 days ago
Reply to  joy bishop

What is your point? To do nothing and let Wales become a holiday park?

Hywel
Hywel
24 days ago

Gwlad yr Ia (Iceland) has had a problem with over-tourism and the issues that come with it – the more visible consequences being littering, damage of the local environment, disrespect towards residents and local culture and breaking local laws. It has similar ‘pulls’ in that it has a beautiful landscape and natural resources with a small population. I’m not sure what lessons they learned over the years, but depending on their response, it could provide the Welsh Gov a good example of how to deal with this.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
23 days ago
Reply to  Hywel

I think the Icelanders asserted themselves, and those visitors who showed disrespect were soon reminded. Norway has a similar problem with overtourism, and I think there some communities declared themselves ‘off limits’ to visitors. It’s amazing how effective a little studied unfriendliness can be.

But we have our own solution, and I think it’s perfecting our best imitations of the R.S. Thomas scowl. I don’t think many tourists would misunderstand that, or indeed stick around to find out!

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
24 days ago

This is a timely warning by Cylch yr Iaith. There is a severe risk, and a high probablity, that local authorities will respond to this year’s over-tourism by embedding an overarching tourism infrastructure to accommodate this kind of unsustainable level for the indefinite future. The impact of tourism is now well-known and well-publicised, and needs serious WG intervention to reign it in and develop a genuine economy for the affected areas. Sadly, it’s unlikely to come about, and the next few decades will witness the “Cornwallisation” of Western Wales. I hope everyone concerned can live with their consciences.

Huw Prys Jones
Huw Prys Jones
23 days ago

There is another question that needs to be asked in this summer of hell in some of the most precious parts of Wales. Namely, how can any patriotic Welsh people tolerate the use of the term ‘staycation’ in the context of English people holidaying in Wales? It simply reinforces the mentality that Wales and England are one country. If English tourists think of Wales as an extension of their own country, the next step will be that it is perfectly acceptable for them to buy a house in their ‘own’ country. Ironically, this is taking place at a time of… Read more »

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