Original by Owen Hughes, BusinessLive - https://www.business-live.co.uk/economic-development/demand-remove-visit-wales-welsh-16861544
Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders spoke out after seeing a fall in the number of international visitors
A drop in the number of international visitors at the start of 2019 has led to calls for Visit Wales to come out of Government control - but tourism chiefs insist the sector is having a strong year.
Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders spoke out after figures were released showing that international trips to Wales during the first quarter of 2019 fell by 4% to 147,000 compared to the same period in 2018 - with visitor spending falling by 23%.
She believes it is time for Visit Wales to be removed from Welsh Government control and allow the sector itself to lead on promoting Wales.
Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “There are potentially a number of reasons why there was a reduction in international visitors, but at a time when the exchange rates have been relatively favourable to foreign tourists, and hotels and attractions across Aberconwy are winning top awards, it is worrying that Wales has seen a fall in visitors.
“Greater reason to be concerned is that London and the rest of England actually saw an increase. For example, London saw 4,240,000 international trips, 5% more than the year before.
“Whilst I appreciate that London is a top global destination, North Wales is too.
“It must therefore be asked why we are not seeing a greater number of people choosing to visit Wales during their trips to the United Kingdom.
“Personally, I think that a good starting point would be to remove Visit Wales from Welsh Government control and let the industry lead on promoting our country as a destination.
“As I have said before, the best way to strengthen our tourist sector is by listening to and giving levers of control to the industry rather than leaving them with the Welsh Government."
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “The International Passenger Survey is just one measure of visitor numbers to Wales. Conclusions on tourism performance should not be drawn from the International Passenger Survey for the first Quarter.”
They added that findings from the Wales Tourism Business Barometer so far this year have showed that the industry is having a good year. It found that 86% of tourism firms increased or maintained visitor levels over the Easter break and 83% in the half term.
Jim Jones, managing director of North Wales Tourism, said: “We do have a great degree of autonomy already but it is also important for us to work closely with Welsh Government to market the fantastic offer we have in North Wales.
“We have had great success by targeting the Japanese market and we have been rewarded with an increase in high-spending visitors while at the same time we are seeing more visitors from across the border as more people stay at home because of the weak pound.
“There are opportunities for us to tap into other overseas markets, particularly the growing numbers of Chinese visitors now arriving at Manchester with Hainan Airways running direct flights there from Beijing.
“North Wales has one of the best tourism products in the whole of Europe.”