‘Bumper’ year for Welsh tourism and hospitality businesses

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wales

The Welsh Connection: More than half of those surveyed in the Wales Tourism Business Survey said they enjoyed a higher turnover this summer compared with last year
The Welsh Connection: More than half of those surveyed in the Wales Tourism Business Survey said they enjoyed a higher turnover this summer compared with last year
Wales’ hospitality and tourism industries are thriving, with many local operators reporting their busiest year to date and a number of major business investments giving a clear sign that buyers are returning to the market.

Property specialists Colliers International has seen increased activity across the hospitality board, particularly in the hotel sector, signing off three major deals in as many weeks.

Slebech Park in Pembrokeshire, the Llanwenarth Hotel near Abergavenny and the Dragon Hotel in Montgomery have all been sold, with Colliers also agreeing a deal for the Three Horseshoes at Cenarthwell - in excess of the asking price after ‘massive interest’ from would-be buyers. 

“We had people queuing around the block to take a look at the Three Horseshoes,” said Colliers’ hotels director Peter Brunt. “As well as being located on a key holiday route, its main advantage is the sheer number of attractions in the immediate area which guarantee good footfall.

“But that qualification applies to any number of pubs and hotels in Wales, many of which are unique and special one way or another.”

Continued investments

Colliers has also just completed development monitoring work on a £1.1m investment in new leisure facilities at Croft Holiday Park, tucked away in the countryside between Narberth and Tenby. The project involved the refurbishment of the existing bar and restaurant and construction of a new state-of-the-art salt water health spa. 

And it has been working closely with the nearby Bluestone National Park Resort which is now trading well and is poised for expansion. Since opening in 2008, the park had increased its accommodation stock from 220 to 280 luxury accommodation units, with a further phase of 100 eco-style lodges planned on the back of high occupancy.

Leisure parks specialist Ben Jones said: “The continued investment in Bluestone shows confidence in the Welsh tourism sector and confirms demand for a high-quality resort product in West Wales. It also shows the importance of providing high quality accommodation and extensive wet weather facilities to overcome the vagaries of the Welsh climate.

“Another factor in its success is the fact Bluestone adopts a very positive and pro-active pricing policy to ensure that customers receive excellent value for money during these challenging economic times.”

Tourism Business Survey

This increased optimism for Welsh hospitality businesses coincides with a similarly positive assessment from Welsh Tourism, which reported that 57 per cent of Welsh leisure businesses had received more guests or visitors this summer compared to 12 months ago, and almost a third of Wales’ major tourist attractions reported an increase in visitor numbers.

The Wales Tourism Business survey also discovered that most businesses are now feeling extra confident about the autumn season.

Head of office Tim Davies said: “We’ve had a great season and many hospitality business owners and operators have been surprised and relieved at just how quickly their prospects have been turned around.

“Two years ago, we had large amounts of small medium and large leisure properties on the market across Wales – it seemed nobody dared to talk about the downturn for fear of making things worse. Now, we’re seeing clear signs buyers are returning to the market and owners have finally got something to shout about.

“The fact many attractions are ensuring they have adequate wet weather facilities in place helps ensure Wales is kept open for business – whatever the weather. When you factor in the significant investment into facilities we have seen recently, it’s no surprise customer confidence is improving.”

Bryn Williams

A shining example of this turnaround in business prospects and confidence can be found in Colwyn Bay, on Wales’ north coast. The opening of a new restaurant from celebrity chef Bryn Williams​ and the construction of a new dry beach which opened in time for the summer have helped local hospitality businesses and suppliers alike.

Bryn Williams with Teresa Carnall, chair of the Bay of Colwyn Business Network and Ingrid Lewis, town manager for Conwy County Council

Williams’ commitment to using local food producers for his Porth Eirias restaurant has been particularly well-received, with Mona Jones of Dolwen Farm shop claiming it is ‘a great boost to Colwyn Bay and will add extra credibility to the town as a destination for food lovers’.

John Mitchell, owner of Mitchells Butchers, agreed. “Any increase of people coming to Colwyn Bay is beneficial for local businesses,” he added. “Bryn is a strong advocate of the wonderful produce of North Wales and the new restaurant will be a chance to showcase some of the amazing food that comes from the area.”

Suppliers hope the fact that Bryn is sourcing locally will now prompt others to follow suit, whether in restaurants or in their own homes.

“Food tourism is growing in importance, a factor noted by the Welsh Assembly Government,” said Chris Morton, managing director of Bodnant Welsh Food. “North Wales needs to develop a reputation for quality food and the new Bryn Williams restaurant can only help in this regard.”

City of Culture

Meanwhile, Wales' second city, Swansea, is now finalising its bid to be named UK City of Culture 2017 title. Swansea Bay will be in competition with Hull, Dundee and Leicester to win and host a year of cultural events, which could give an even greater boost to tourism.

Welsh Secretary David Jones said: “From its National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the miles of stunning Gower coastline, and the National Botanic Gardens of Wales in Carmarthenshire, there is no doubt in my mind that now is Swansea Bay’s time to shine.

“I have been inspired by the vision and drive of the bid team, and I know that they will put forward the strongest case possible in the race for the title.”

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