National parks visitors spend £1bn according to report
Wales' three national parks attract more than 12 million visitors, who spend £1bn a year, a report claims.
A review into Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast and Brecon Beacons was commissioned by National Parks Wales, the WLGA and Natural Resources Wales.
The report - entitled Valuing Wales' National Parks - said it meant £557m was added to the Welsh economy as a direct result of the parks.
Visitors spend more time in Welsh parks than those in England and Scotland.
The report said that on average, people spend 2.26 days visiting the parks in Wales compared with England and Scotland where visitors spent 1.59 days.
It said: "Because visitors are more likely to stay overnight, the average expenditure of visitors to the parks in Wales is higher (£87 per head) than in the rest of the UK (£60 per head)."
The report found:
- Snowdonia attracts 4.27m visitors a year
- Pembrokeshire Coast was visited by 4.2m people a year
- Brecon Beacons attracted 4.15m
- 30,000 people work in within the parks' boundaries
- 73% of people in Wales had visited a national park in last 12 months
- 95% said national parks were "important to them"
The report based its findings on research conducted by a variety of organisations including the Welsh government, Office for National Statistics, visitor spending estimates and other sources.
Culture Minister John Griffiths said the parks were an "asset" to Wales and its economy.
Speaking on behalf of National Parks Wales, Snowdonia chief executive Aneurin Phillips described them as "the lungs of our nation".
"Unlike the national parks in the United States - which are largely uninhabited areas - Wales' national parks are very much living communities with over 80,000 people residing within their boundaries, providing employment for approximately 30,000 people," he said.
"This report has given us a real insight into the tangible economic benefits of our national parks and I'm naturally pleased with its findings."
However, the Federation of Small Businesses said it recently carried out a survey which found that many members thought the three national park authorities in Wales did not understand business and economic issues in particular with planning matters.
It said it hoped Wednesday's report would lead to recognition within the park authorities to recognise the importance of supporting businesses.
Iestyn Davies, head of external affairs for FSB Wales, said: "We can only take today's report as much-needed recognition of the importance of economic development within Wales' national parks.
"FSB Wales hopes that recognition will now be reflected in the dealings of the national parks and their officers with small businesses, particularly when it comes to planning."
Simon Hart, Tory MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said he was pleased with with the "positive picture".
However, he added: "People come to the national parks because of the landscape and the people who live there - they don't come because of the national park authorities.
"They clearly have a role in protecting and maintaining the park, but so does everybody who runs a business or a farm there.
"I think we should be cautious about believing this is all down to a layer of public sector government."
He has previously described the national parks planning system as an obstacle to economic regeneration, and claims parks should be able to consider social and economic factors as well as environmental matters.