STAYCATIONING Brits are helping to boost tourism businesses and jobs in Swansea, new figures have revealed.
Despite Brexit and austerity, the latest figures for visitor spend in the Swansea Bay area show more people than ever are visiting and importantly, they’re spending more when they’re here.
Thanks to major events last year like BBC’s Biggest Weekend, the Wales Airshow and the Admiral Swansea Bay 10k, visitor spend rose by more than £20m to almost £450m.
Almost 4.8m people visited Swansea Bay in 2018, 3% up on the previous year, helping support 5,700 jobs. Occupancy rates at self-catering properties reached almost 95% last August.
And scrutiny councillors were told there is a growing mood of optimism among businesses in the years ahead, thanks to the prospect of major new attractions and music events at the showpiece Singleton Park.
Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Innovation, Regeneration and Tourism, said: “Brexit and the economic and travel uncertainties that come with it seem to have encouraged more Brits than ever to enjoy their holiday-time at home in the UK.
“It has encouraged many visitors to re-visit UK destinations that they haven’t been to since their childhood, since they were in university etc. or maybe that they have never visited before.
“We think that’s one of the reasons why last year we saw the highest percentage increase in tourism spend in Swansea Bay since 2014.
“Swansea Bay has some of the finest natural attractions anywhere in Britain, award winning beaches and a warm welcome. The BBC’s Biggest Weekend in Singleton Park presented a fantastic platform for us to not only demonstrate our ability to stage major events but also to showcase what the destination has to offer.
“Tens of millions of people saw it on TV, with many inevitably visiting the area as a result’
The STEAM figures (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) prepared for Swansea Council also showed that serviced occupancy rates in places like hotels and B&Bs were higher than the year before and significantly better than the Wales average.
The Scrutiny Working Group for tourism heard that tourism business confidence is buoyed this year by Swansea’s events programme including headliners such as the Wales Airshow and major music events planned in Singleton Park such as the Stereophonics, Jess Glynne, Pete Tong and his Heritage Orchestra and the return of Proms in the Park.
He added: “There is also a sense of optimism with major capital projects planned and in the pipeline such as Mumbles Pier, the Penderyn Whisky Distillery, the Kilvey Hill Skyline proposals and the new arena, on which work has already started.”
Robert Francis-Davies, Cabinet Member for Innovation, Regeneration and Tourism, added ‘With the execution of the Council’s 2019 ‘Year of Discovery’ marketing campaign, supported by key events and major new developments in the area, we are confident that tourism businesses can look forward to another busy year.’
The scrutiny group was also told about the latest developments with Swansea’s Rural Development Programme which aims to spearhead eco-tourism, countryside access on the Gower AONB and Mawr.
A key feature of the programme is to encourage sustainable tourism business and attract new visitors to the area through schools’ programmes and by enabling access to rights of way and the 58 miles of Wales Coast Path that threads its way around the Gower coastal area.
Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment and Infrastructure, said: “, Part of our activity is to encourage schools and other groups with an interest in the environment to come and see what Swansea’s natural environment has to offer, in terms of learning about its diverse wildlife or engaging in a practical conservation work.”
He added: “At the heart of the Rural Development Plan is our ambition to support sustainable local tourism and the wellbeing of residents and visitors alike. There is strong evidence to show that walking or cycling can improve mental as well as physical health.”