Outdoor activities 'worth £480m to economy in Wales'

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Media captionSome visitors said they were not aware of advertising about tourism to Wales in their home areas

The outdoor activities sector is worth almost half a billion pounds to the Welsh economy, new figures show.

But a pursuits provider says lack of access to the natural environment is holding back the sector's potential.

Visit Wales research found activities ranging from abseiling to zip wire rides by more than 600 providers generated £481m and created 8,243 jobs.

The outdoor activities sector is worth up to 10% of Wales' tourism economy, according to the report.

Daytrippers spend £220m a year while those staying overnight bringing in £236m, found the report drawn up in partnership with the Wales Activity Tourism Organisation (WATO). Visitors from overseas who stay overnight add a further £24m.

A survey of those taking part in outdoor activities found 54% of those staying overnight said they would not have visited Wales if they were not taking part in the activity.

Tourism Minister Edwina Hart said: "Wales offers a wide range of outdoor activities and adventure opportunities for visitors have an important role to play in attracting visitors to Wales.

"This sector has increased in popularity in recent years due to a demand for experiences and lifestyle-orientated holidays."

Phil Nelson, of Gwynedd-based Surf-Lines said: "Our biggest restriction is access to the natural environment."

Mr Nelson, who founded his Llanberis firm in 2000, said providers had changed their offer over the years to meet the growing demand for activities but were still hampered by a relative lack of access to the countryside.

He said: "That's the thing that holds us back from being a billion pound industry.

'Natural environment'

"If you go to any other country, they don't have the access restrictions we have.

"We should have unrestricted access to the natural environment in the same way as they have in Scotland and most other countries."

In January, the British Mountaineering Council called for greater access to the outdoors in Wales ahead of a Welsh government review on laws.

But the Country Landowners Association said it had concerns about the cost of "unfettered access".

A Welsh government green paper on the review is due to be published soon.

The survey of Wales' outdoor activity providers had 296 responses but incomplete responses and those outside the scope of the survey reduced this to 93.

The report found the total expenditure in Wales' on outdoor activity tourism was estimated at £601m.

In 2010, Scottish Natural Heritage said the value to the Scottish economy of nature-based tourism was £1.4bn a year.

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