Small tourism firms 'slip through net' for government money

By Brian Meechan
BBC Wales business correspondent

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The FSB wants a concerted effort to create year-round tourism to locations such as Llandudno

Most tourism businesses "slip through the net" for funding aimed at helping the industry, the Federation of Small Businesses has said.

A report from the organisation said larger firms dominated the five main pots of Welsh Government money.

It also argued councils should be given a greater role in delivering tourism strategies.

The Welsh Government said it would happily meet the FSB to "constructively discuss" its recommendations in detail.

The FSB said the Welsh Government's Visit Wales brand was not viewed as "useful" to members, although suggested there had been improvements in the past two years since the introduction of annual themes, such as 2018's Year of the Sea.

Visitors to Wales spend about £5.1bn a year, according to Welsh Government figures, and there were 9.3 million overnight trips to Wales by people from other parts of the UK in 2016, down from 10.5 million in 2015.

In its report, Croeso I Gymru: Boosting the Economic Impact of Tourism in Wales, the FSB called for the Welsh Government and Visit Wales to increase the length of these stays and the money spent.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The FSB said it wants more people staying longer in locations including Three Cliffs Bay on Gower

The Tourism Investment Support Scheme and the Micro Small Business Fund are two of five funds it called "out of reach" for most small firms.

It said the vast majority of tourism operators employ fewer than five people and calculated they would have to plan to double in size to get support from the Micro Small Business Fund, which has a minimum grant or loan size of £25,000.

It said the Welsh Government must consult more with the sector over the possibility of a tourism tax being introduced.

Ben Francis, FSB Wales policy chairman, said the Welsh Government was right to identify tourism as a "foundational sector".

"Given this, it's time for the government to re-visit its strategic approach to the industry in Wales and consider how we can more effectively support the sector and create a year-round proposition which benefits businesses, our economy and raises Wales' international profile," he said.

"One of the most striking issues arising from this report is that the smallest firms appear to be missing out on Welsh Government support."

Image caption,
Steve Griffiths runs the Esplanade cafe in Porthcawl and said he had never been told about any government help available

Steve Griffiths employs five people at the Esplanade cafe in Porthcawl, Bridgend county.

He said he would be receptive to any help, but none had been offered: "I'm really busy trying to, week in week out, day in day out, make it work. I haven't got time to go searching for these government bodies. I don't know what they are."

The Welsh Government said its support over the past few years "helped put Welsh tourism on a solid platform to compete on both a UK and international stage".

A spokesman said tourism was "at the heart of a continued drive to promote and protect Wales' place in the world".