Plaid Cymru’s Gwynedd Leader is keen to welcome a mature and open discussion with local communities and partners who play a role within the tourism sector in Gwynedd, so that a new welcome is offered to tourists who visit the area.
Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, Plaid Cymru Gwynedd’s Council leader says it is time to offer long-term solutions to local communities and businesses dependent on the tourism industry and to address the impact that over-tourism is having on the county.
“As leader of the Council in this area, I don't think anyone blames the visitors who flock here to enjoy our mountains and beaches after the sustained Covid19 restrictions placed upon people. In fact, I encourage visitors to come here to take advantage of our wonderful natural assets but I need to stress the importance of respecting our communities and our environment.
“The harrowing events at Aberdyfi during the weekend (26 Jul) also reminds us all to respect the warnings and to respect nature - our seas and estuaries are not a swimming pool but natural waters that can pose dangers. Three helicopters and the RLNI lifeboat were used to rescue individuals from the sea at Aberdyfi, and we are immensely grateful to those brave individuals who risk their own lives, to ensure the safety of others.
"As visitor numbers increase this year, we must realise that more of the same is no longer acceptable, and this Covid19 crisis is an opportunity for us to look again at how we manage the tourist industry which has such an impact on our countryside.
Work is already underway at Gwynedd Council to develop ideas for a truly sustainable tourism industry that benefits our communities and the natural environment. At a time when we need to reduce our carbon emissions as a matter of urgency, it is not acceptable to continue to see thousands of cars traveling along our roads to enjoy our beaches, valleys and mountains.
"Part of the solution is for us to control access and create easy-to-use public transport powered by Hydrogen generated from a local renewable energy source,” said Councillor Siencyn. “To do that would require significant investment and access to funding sources from both governments in Cardiff and London.
“We also need to ensure that the industry offers sound career opportunities to Gwynedd residents. A well-paid occupation rather than low paid seasonal work. That is one of my visions, as leader of Plaid Cymru in Gwynedd. The industry needs to reflect our culture, heritage, and traditions and puts the Welsh language at the core of the history and future of our tourism sector.
“With the increasing popularity of visitors coming to Gwynedd, it brings a significant cost to our public services; from clearing and collecting rubbish, to repairing paths, to warden salaries and keeping public conveniences open and accessible. Unfortunately, this is a cost currently placed at the door of local taxpayers.
“There is also some concerns that a large number of visitors are travelling here for the day without contributing much to the local economy. Surely it would be a logical step to request a payment for the privilege of using our valuable assets?
“This could be in the form of a tourism tax as is common in continental Europe or placing a surcharge on individuals using an innovative technology solution, now easily available and accessible. A discussion is needed with the Welsh Government to seek a way forward and I am keen to begin that discussion sooner rather than later.
“Looking at the impact of COVID19 on our areas, it has become more apparent than ever before that our rural economy is totally dependent on the tourism industry. Nevertheless, it is shocking that our family income levels are among the lowest in the country. That is not fair, nor is it sustainable or acceptable - and the question must be asked what is the real benefit to our local people?
“We need to promote a much more diverse economy, promoting businesses that are not dependent on visitors only. In this new era, of home working, there are great opportunities to establish innovative and exciting businesses of different kinds.
“Gwynedd is not unique as a popular tourist destination. Other locations across Wales are facing similar problems, and the same issues are occurring in parts of Scotland, the Lake District, Cornwall and Devon.
“We need a mature debate, bringing partners together and putting our grassroot communities, at the heart of these proposed changes. By working together, we will ensure that Gwynedd remains a great place to visit, an economically viable county, but most of all, a comfortable and safe location for our local residents, wherever they reside in Gwynedd.”