Wales should do much more to raise awareness of the Welsh language and its own culture in order to differentiate the country from the rest of the UK.
That is one of the recommendations of a new report from British Council Wales published today.
The report says Wales should better use the appeal of its ‘soft power’, its culture, education and sport sectors, to gain more recognition and influence on the world stage.
“We feel there is much that could be done with the language outside of Wales, effectively using it as a way to both raise interest in Wales and differentiate it from the rest of the UK,” the report says.
“As such, we recommend Wales make greater efforts to share the language with international audiences, incorporating it in tourism promotion campaigns.”
The report also recommends that the Welsh Government should work with festival organisers, existing cultural venues, and institutions to host more festivals with a large enough profile to attract international audiences.
“Pitched correctly, this would not only improve cultural opportunities for residents in Wales, but would likely have a positive knock-on effect in bringing in more international tourists,” the report says.
The report makes eight other recommendations:
1.) Wales should make a sustained effort to push its top universities into the global top 200, making Wales a more attractive place to study for international students.
2.) Wales should target international students and increase their number, which would benefit Wales economically, but also serve as a boost to its soft power
3.) Wales needs more overseas officers in order to develop its international network
4.) Wales should encourage countries to open up consulates in Cardiff to make government-to-government collaboration easier and more likely
5.) Wales should encourage its cities, especially Cardiff and Swansea, to grow their own international networks
6.) The Visit Wales tourism promotion agency should put Welsh people at the centre of a tourism promotion campaign in order showcase Wales’ friendly spirit and hospitality.
7.) The Welsh Government should use the Rugby World Cup in Japan to construct a big public diplomacy set piece in order to reach Asian audiences.
8.) The Welsh Government should create an international ministerial portfolio at the cabinet level.
The report is based on a survey of 5000 people in ten countries.The survey asked people’s opinion on the cuisine, friendliness to tourists, luxury brands, political values, liveability, culture and sport of Wales and the nine comparable regions and countries.
In the survey Wales was ranked second for sport, just behind Catalonia, and ninth for cuisine, leaving last place to Northern Ireland.
In the data analysis Wales scored best for its digital technology, taking third place behind Scotland and Jeju and for its enterprise sector, at fourth place, outperforming larger regions Catalonia and Hokkaido.
Education was Wales’ weakest performance area, coming in seventh.
Head of Education for British Council Wales, Chris Lewis, said: “Globalisation and devolution present major new opportunities to countries such as Wales, which do not have the same foreign policy levers as nation-states, to operate on the world stage.
“We’re pleased to see the report finds that Wales has considerable soft power resources. The appeal of our sporting culture has clearly been boosted by Wales’ performance at Euro 2016 and the country’s digital infrastructure and investment environment are among its other strengths.
“The challenge now, particularly in the context of Brexit, is to build on this performance and unlock our true soft power potential. We’re calling on the Welsh Government to develop a new international strategy for Wales that will really help bolster global engagement.
“Small nations, regions and cities around the world are increasingly aware that they have so-called ‘soft power’ and are using this to attract inward investment, boost trade and increase tourist and international student numbers.”
The report and the future for Wales’ soft power will be discussed at a conference in Cardiff on 26 April, where First Minister Carwyn Jones will give the keynote speech. The conference has been organised by British Council Wales in conjunction with the Institute of Welsh Affairs.
The report was written by Jonathan McClory of Portland, who produce the Soft Power 30, the annual ranking of the countries with the most influential soft power in the world.