Plaid Cymru councillors Steve Kent and Lindsay Whittle have bitterly criticised a decision by Caerphilly Council which, they say, will reduce skilled authority support for the area’s tourism businesses.
Caerphilly Tourism Association (CTA) has been informed of changes to support from the Labour-run council, presented as a fait accompli. There was no prior consultation.
The CTA bring tourism and hospitality businesses together providing one voice to make the tourism industry stronger and ultimately increase visitors.
Councillor Steve Kent, a member of the Environment and Sustainability committee, added: “Last year Caerphilly Council Cabinet endorsed a plan to raise the profile of the destination and to promote Caerphilly Castle as a Tier 1 tourism attraction to rival such places as Warwick Castle, Hampton Court Palace etc.
“The idea being that increasing visitor numbers to the castle would see an economic benefit rolling out from a central attraction to the rest of our Borough. There seems to have been a step backwards in this aspiration by removing experienced support staff from their roles, thereby not using all their relevant skills and industry contacts to ensure the plan would have the best possible chance of a successful outcome.”
Senedd Assembly regional candidate and former council leader Councillor Lindsay Whittle said: “I’m really annoyed at the haphazard way our local tourism businesses are virtually being abandoned, particularly in the middle of a pandemic. We must prepare for a return to normal life, hopefully in 2021, so local hospitality and tourism businesses need hope and protection, not being cast away. We need to protect and support these businesses, not let them wither on the vine.”
Councillor Steve Kent pointed out that the present arrangements were set up around 10 years ago by the previous Plaid Cymru administration and had worked very well.
“The officers who have been liaising with the tourist sector are very much valued by the Tourist Association and I understand are well respected further afield. It seems that their expertise is being lost and not being properly replaced. I have not seen any cogent reason why this successful arrangement should be changed.
“It is also really disappointing that there was no proper consultation with the Caerphilly Tourist Association and a requested meeting between representatives of the CTA and the council has not yet taken place which is frankly shocking.”
Councillor Lindsay Whittle added: “We’ve been told that, apparently, the council’s Regeneration and Planning Department has decided that, going forward, tourism is not seen as an essential industry to support and, therefore, a decision was taken to cease all current tourism marketing within the Department. That is totally unacceptable.
“Jobs are at stake and I want to find out what is the justification for such a drastic move when businesses are already struggling because of COVID-19. It seems incredibly short-sighted. I want an urgent rethink.”