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Welsh Government’s £7m tourism budget slammed as inadequate

The Independent reports on a growing controversy amongst the Welsh tourist industry, whether the £7 million the Welsh Government has allocated for promoting Wales is adequate or not.

They say that Welsh tourism groups have slammed the £7m budget as “hopelessly inadequate”. Adding that the Welsh Government’s marketing budget is dwarfed by those of other parts of the United Kingdom. This is because Scotland spends £47m on promotion and even the seven-mile long Channel Island of Jersey has nearly as big a budget as Wales, at £6m:

In a series of submissions to Westminster’s Welsh Affairs committee, tourism leaders complain that the number of international visitors has dwindled since tourism was devolved to the Welsh Assembly in 1999. The number of overseas visitors to Wales has fallen by 250,000, while those to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have risen, according to the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions (Wava).

They express frustration at the slow progress of Tourism minister Edwina Hart’s promotion strategy, and point out the industry is worth £8.7bn to the Welsh economy, representing 18 per cent of GDP. The group describe the tourism budget as “pathetic” and argue that the Welsh Assembly has been unambitious in its targets for tourism revenue growth. At 10 per cent by 2020, this is significantly lower than England’s target of 51 per cent and Northern Ireland’s 81 per cent.

“Many are dismayed by what is happening within Welsh tourism under stewardship of the Welsh Government,” they told MPs. “If the Welsh Assembly Government does not increase their marketing spend Welsh tourism/attractions will inevitably slowly decline as our markets are gradually captured by other parts of Great Britain.”

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Assembly Member joins local residents in calling for action on Council’s ‘vandalism’ of Caswell beach

The Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly member for South Wales West Peter Black has joined with local residents in calling on Swansea Council to remove stones which they dumped on Caswell beach in March of this year.

Mr. Black has written to the Council’s Head of Culture and Tourism asking for an explanation as to why he decided to deposit stones on the beach instead of instigating a programme of sand replenishment, and constructing groynes to combat erosion as happens elsewhere on the Welsh coastline

Commenting on the depositing of stones on the beach Mr. Black said: “clearly, the storms at the beginning of the year have had a negative impact on the appearance of the beach. This is a matter of great concern to many residents and visitors to Caswell. The recent photographs that I have seen show a stark contrast when compared with those from the past.

“However, there are other ways to tackle this problem other than to dump stones on the beach. The council’s action has been described to me as vandalism, not just because the stones are unsightly but also because they create a hazard for bathers. Many residents and tourists have been shocked by the transformation of the beach.

“The council needs to rethink this action, remove the stones and put other more aesthetically acceptable measures in place instead.”

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Commuters don’t feel train companies are on their side

The Western Mail reports on a survey by Passenger Focus which has found that many passengers don’t trust their train company to provide a good day-today service.

The paper says that passengers do not feel train companies are “on their side”, according to a survey of thousands of rail travellers:

Many passengers do not trust their train company to provide a good day-to-day service nor do they trust them to be truthful, fair or communicate well, the survey from rail customer watchdog Passenger Focus found.

Involving 4,000 online interviews with rail travellers, the survey looked at how passengers trusted their service and what trust they put in their relationship with their train company.

Only 29% of those surveyed saw Arriva Trains Wales as leaders in the rail industry and the company was not seen as a good communicator with just 36% saying they communicate well.

Around 55% of people believe the Welsh company has helpful staff at stations, ranking the company in 15th place when compared to other operators, which could be the reason behind the relatively low score on communication.

Passenger Focus said Arriva Wales can improve its communication but that the lower trust in service score of -16% indicates delivery is a priority.

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Political parties sign up for new top level domain name

The Western Mail reports that all four political parties across Wales have pledged to adopt Welsh internet domain brands when they become available later in the year.

Senior figures and leaders of all four parties signed up to be founders of the .wales .cymru domains, which will see Welsh Labour, the Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats transfer their web domains.

They follow in the footsteps of other organisations that have pledged to make the switch as “early adopters”, with small business organisation the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, broadcaster S4C, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, Young Farmers Wales and Sport Wales among those announced during the Eisteddfod last week.

Others include the Scarlets rugby team, the Arts Council for Wales and a number of smaller businesses, including Y Lolfa, Fabulous Welshcakes and Clark’s Pies.

The move, which got the go ahead earlier this year, is designed to help market Wales to the world.

The parties’ pledges also come in the wake of the National Assembly formally pledging to become an early adopter in the process – being steered by Nominet Wales – meaning its domain will formally change in the autumn.

A phased launch plan will allow those with a registered trademark to benefit first from registrations in September, closely followed by businesses and organisations who can prove interests and use of a brand name in Wales even if they don’t have a trademark.

The final phase will see the addresses open up to everybody from St David’s Day next year.

Eluned Parrott, the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for enterprise and business, said: “It’s absolutely right that Wales will have its own distinctive and recognisable internet domain name.

“Not only is this significant culturally, but it will be an extra tool for businesses and other organisations to sell Wales to the world. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are delighted that we will have welshlibdems.wales and demrhyddcymru.cymru up and running very soon.”

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Further fall in Welsh unemployment welcome

We’ve now seen 20 months of continuous falls in unemployment, and a number of other key indicators also show that the economy is going in the right direction.

Unemployment in Wales now stands at 97,000, the first time it’s fallen bellow 100,000 since 2008.

Thanks to the decisive action taken by my Liberal Democrat colleagues in Westminster, the UK economy is now bigger than it was before Labour’s catastrophic crash took us to the brink of disaster.

The main priority now must be to ensure that everyone has the chance to benefit from the stronger economy and fairer society that we want to build, tackling inequalities, fighting for better wages and helping the long-term unemployed find the opportunity they need to build their lives.

“I’m particularly pleased to see the fall in youth unemployment. There’s plenty of work to be done, but the signs today are very encouraging.

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Welsh Lib Dems secure funding boost commitment for Wales

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, has announced that she has won her party’s commitment to overhaul the current unfair funding system for Wales.

Going into the General Election, the Liberal Democrats will pledge that Wales will have fairer funding for the next parliament, which could mean hundreds of millions of pounds of extra funding for Wales.

The Liberal Democrats recognise the findings of the Holtham Commission that the current Barnett formula underfunds Wales; therefore in government the party would commission work to update the Holtham Commission’s analysis. The party will then seek, over a parliament, to increase the Welsh block grant to an equitable level.

The Liberal Democrats will also immediately entrench a Barnett ‘floor’ so the underfunding gap could not increase.

These manifesto commitments will come in the Liberal Democrats’ ‘Pre-Manifesto’, to be published in September.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

“I am delighted that we have secured this strong commitment to overhaul the current unfair funding system for Wales.

“This announcement means that, with the Liberal Democrats in government, Wales could receive hundreds of millions of pounds of extra funding over the next parliament.

“The Liberal Democrats not only recognise that Wales is underfunded, but we will commit to putting in place practical measures to address this. This is about Wales getting a fairer deal and we believe this is the best way forward for that to happen.

“Our communities and public services are being denied the money which we would receive if there was a fair funding system. For years both Labour and the Tories have defended the status quo and refused to acknowledge that Wales is getting a raw deal. Once again, the Liberal Democrats are showing that we are the only party in Westminster that will make a positive difference for the people of Wales.”

David Laws MP, Chair of the Manifesto Group, said:

“This new policy involves immediately introducing a Barnett floor, updating the Holtham Commission’s work on Welsh underfunding; and aiming to deliver this extra funding for Wales within the next Parliament.

“The Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government already have a proud record of delivering for Wales. Now we are making the strongest ever commitment by the Liberal Democrats to deliver fair funding for Wales in the next parliament. Nick Clegg and I have been impressed by the powerful case for fair funding put to us by Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Liberal Democrats. We recognise how significant this pledge is for the people of Wales and we regard it is an important part of the pre manifesto which we will soon be publishing.

“At the next general election every vote for the Liberal Democrats will be a vote to finally deliver the fair funding which Wales deserves.”

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