By Professor Brian Garrod, Professor in Marketing

“Build back better” has become something of a trope in recent discussions about what should be our national priorities once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. The usual message is that COVID-19 represents an opportunity to rethink what our priorities are and to think about changing how we do things to achieve better outcomes. This includes taking a more sustainable approach: one that meets the needs of today’s generation while also caring for the needs of future generations.

There has been so much of this talk lately, that I believe it now comes across as somewhat trite and that people are becoming immune to it, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. In the case of tourism in Wales, however, I think there really is an opportunity for us to build back better. Tourism accounts for around 6% of our gross value added in Wales and upon one in ten jobs are supported by it. It also impacts our daily lives. Without tourism to serve as the paymaster, there would be fewer open spaces, facilities and protected areas for us to enjoy ourselves. Tourism also has an enormous potential to serve as the guardian of our natural environment.

What, then, makes me think that we really do need to build tourism back better in Wales? Firstly, the policy context is right. Wales is one of the first countries in the world to have an Act that is concerned with the well-being of future generations. While this Act was not specifically introduced with tourism in mind, and tourism has rarely been discussed by policy-makers and politicians in its light, tourism is so significant and widespread in Wales that, if managed wrongly, it has the power to compromise the wellbeing of future generations through its often adverse impacts. This means, of course, that it is also in prime position to lead the way and grasp the sustainability agenda.

Secondly, the tourism industry Wales is perfectly poised to seize the moment. Last year saw record numbers of tourists come to Wales from other parts of the UK. This phenomenon, known as the ‘staycation’, has many positive characteristics that make it a perfect vehicle for sustainability, including the absence of the need for air travel to get to Wales, air travel usually being the major component of the holiday ‘footprint’. The infrastructure of Wales also leaves us perfectly placed, with much of our accommodation and many of our attractions based outside the big cities and resorts, where tourists can enjoy a slower pace and get to know the area they are visiting. Much of this accommodation stock has already developed impressive green credentials, such as Green Key accreditation, which greatly assists in matters.

It seems to me, therefore, that this is an excellent time to build the tourism industry back better. Please don’t get me wrong, the tourism in Wales was good before COVID-19, but it can be made better through appropriate planning, management and marketing, through bodies such as local authorities and Visit Wales. We need to ensure that our tourism offer is as sustainable as possible and that people know it is. The COVID-19 ‘pause’ has given people an opportunity to reassess their priorities: it also gives the tourism sector in wales a chance to focus on the domestic visitor, to grow the market for slower holidays, and to promote our famous culture and matchless natural resources. This need not be the exclusion of the international tourist, city stays or business travel. We need a healthy mix of tourism types and the staycation is a very important one. Let’s build it.

ITV interview 'How to travel more consciously in a climate emergency'

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Blog written by: Professor Brian Garrod, Professor in Marketing
Date published: 25/01/2021