Tourism

Jan 132018
 

Llais y Sais (Voice of the English) is an alternative name for our much-reviled and laughingly self-styled ‘National Newspaper of Wales’. It’s readership has plummeted over the years and I think it’s now down to me and some old bird in Ponty.

Yes, I still read it, but then, I’m a masochist; I have to be to stay in Wales and witness the idiocy, duplicity and corruption at all levels of our national life. What’s more, as a blogger, I feel it’s my duty to read it so that you may be spared, with me bringing you the occasional report here or on Twitter. (God! the things I do for you.)

Today is your lucky day because I’m going to give you four stories from today’s issue. So relax, and enjoy.

BIGOT FODDER

First up is a strange little story about someone complaining that a Santa Claus couldn’t speak Welsh. Does this really merit half a page?

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As I suggest, this is a curious non-story designed to get the likes of Jacques Protic and Clements of Llangyfelach pounding their keyboards. It’s news value is zero, especially weeks after Christmas, which makes it nothing more than a ‘Welsh bastards!’ story designed to suggest intolerance or extremism on the part of Welsh speakers.

Which makes it entirely predictable that this ‘story’ originated with English Heritage West (aka Cadw) and ended up in Llais y Sais.

‘A BIGOT WRITES . . . ‘

It would be easy to dismiss this reader’s letter from today’s issue as more bigot fodder . . . but it comes from a bigot.

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If I’m reading this letter correctly, then Dennis Coughlin believes that ‘Welsh’ Labour’s undemocratic internal processes are there to keep in power “dominant quasi-nationalists whose raison d’etre is to placate those of a direct lineage to the sons of Owen Glendower”. He seems to hate things Welsh so much that he can’t even bring himself to write Owain Glyndŵr.

As if that wasn’t enough, in his final paragraph he goes on to accuse these ‘quasi-nationalists’ of racism, for there’s no other way to interpret his reference to skin colour.

And yet, this idiot does represent traditional Labour in Wales – the anti-Welsh Labour Party of George Thomas and Neil Kinnock. That party we’d hoped was behind us . . . but maybe it’s just been biding its time.

Is he a member of the Labour Party, and if so, will he be disciplined? And why did Llais y Sais publish such a disgraceful, anti-Welsh smear?

Out of curiosity I Googled ‘Dennis Coughlin’, and came up with this letter, published by Llais y Sais on January 8th. This man clearly has a problem with the Welsh language. Rather than pander to it maybe Llais y Sais should have a word with his family.

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And not publish any more bigoted garbage like the two letters it’s published this week from Dennis Coughlin.

TAX AND SPEND

A regular columnist in Llais y Sais is economist Dylan Jones-Evans. I read him with no great enthusiasm but it helps pass the time. In today’s piece he again attacked the possibility – no more at this stage – of the ‘Welsh’ Government introducing a tourism tax.

Some of what he’s written deserves comment.

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As you may know, I support a tourism tax because I would like to see the money raised spent on those areas suffering excessive levels of tourism. I live in such an area and I know that the great majority of local people see no benefit from tourism.

Worse, they are disadvantaged in a number of ways: tourism provides low skill, low pay and often seasonal employment; tourism results in people wanting to settle, which leads to higher house prices and, due to the age profile of these immigrants, increased strain on our NHS and other services; tourism also results in Anglicisation; then we have the issues of traffic congestion, environmental degradation, waste, etc.

So if we are to have a tourism tax then I would want to see the revenue collected used to alleviate some of these problems, perhaps by helping local young people get on the housing ladder.

But Dylan Jones-Evans questions if the revenue from a tourist tax, “will really go towards improving the tourism facilities as promised”. Promised by whom? What is the point of levying a tax on tourism only to put it straight back into tourism?

Any tourism tax in Wales must be compensatory or it’s not worth bothering.

Elsewhere he tells us that “the tourism industry generates nearly £9bn for the economy and supports around 242,000 jobs”. Which if nothing else, reminds us that when it comes to tourism figures can be plucked out of thin air, because there is no independent source for figures on tourism and no trustworthy verification.

To illustrate the problem, and even though Dylan Jones-Evans tells us that tourism “supports” 242,000 jobs, StatsWales gives a figure of just 131,300 jobs in “tourism-related industries”, for 2015, so your guess is as good as mine as to where his figure came from.

Perhaps it came from some body run by tourism operators, which looks at towns like Llandudno and Tenby, or areas like Snowdonia and Gower, and concludes that everyone working there must be involved in tourism. Deceitful and deliberately misleading.

And the same can be said for the figure of £9bn.

‘AS LONG AS HE’S FROM CARDIFF’

As you probably know, I’m a football fan. Obviously I support the Swans and Wales, but I also watch games involving other clubs and countries. In this year’s World Cup I shall again be supporting Argentina, though I had hoped to be swearing at the telly wearing red, but a combination of bad luck and cynical Irish tactics put paid to that prospect.

So football coverage is one reason I buy Llais y Sais, though even this is marred by the contributions of Paul Abbandonato, ‘Head of Sport’, no less. But I should be used to it because I remember when that shyster Sam Hammam took over Cardiff City Abbandonato went into overdrive using photos of the National Stadium and insisting that Cardiff City would soon need to play there because they’d be entertaining the likes of Barcelona.

Hammam it was who played his role in Swans-Bluebirds relations by insisting that Swans’ fans should switch their allegiance to Cardiff City. And Abbandonato lapped it up. Abbandonato is not just biased towards the football club, he’s something of a Cardiff nationalist, singing from the ‘Welsh’ media’s Cardiff über Alles song sheet.

Today’s contribution from Abbandonato was in keeping with all that has preceded it except that it wasn’t a report or a preview of a game, instead it was an attempt to influence a decision soon to be made by the Football Association of Wales.

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As far as Abbandonato is concerned the FAW’s decision is between Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy, there’s nobody else in the frame.

Though if you read the article there is – given its subject matter – one glaring lacuna, and that is that despite bigging up his favourites he has nothing to say about their experience. Because quite simply they have none. Which means that Abbandonato wants our national football team to be managed by a man with no experience and for no better reason than that he comes from Cardiff.

But there are other considerations, especially with Giggs. To begin with, I don’t think most fans would accept him due to his reluctance to turn out for the national team when selected (which he has blamed on his manager at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson).

But then there’s a question mark over what kind of a man he is. I’m referring now to his eight-year affair with his brother Rhodri’s wife, which seems to have taken its toll on his brother. Do we really want such a man in charge of our national football team, and impressionable young men?

I believe that following the performance of our national team in Euro 2016 the FAW could aim a bit higher and get a top coach, someone with experience. So I urge the FAW not to be swayed by Abbandonato and the Cardiff lobby and to cast the net wider, find an experienced coach and a man we can all respect.

UPDATE 16.01.2017: And lo! it came to pass as predicted that the selection committee empowered by the FAW did appoint the aforementioned Ryan Giggs as the new manager of our national football team. The media was forced to admit that the news was not welcomed by all Welsh fans but tried to play down the hostility.

Unfortunately for the BBC it ran a poll which showed that only a minority thought it was a good decision. And this, remember, was on the UK BBC website, which means that a lot of Manchester United fans would have voted ‘Yes’ for a club legend. Which tells us that most Welsh fans oppose the decision.

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So there you are, I’ve reminded you why you no longer read Llais y Sais – I bet you’re glad!

♦ end ♦

Mar 282017
 

Brexit

In a recent post, Welsh Independence Referendum, I looked at the call for a second Scottish independence referendum and a referendum on Irish reunification, before considering an independence referendum in Wales and concluding that such a referendum could not be won.

In this post I’m going to give the possibility of a Welsh independence referendum a bit more of an airing, partly because I may not have made my views clear in that earlier post and partly because I think a few other things need to be clarified. For example . . .

A few days ago I tweeted about the mother of the man who killed people outside Westminster last Wednesday, linking to a BBC report that she lives in Carmarthenshire. I received a response from ‘Cymroewrop’ accusing me of making assumptions about the man’s cushion-making, good-lifer mother. Whoever Cymroewrop is he or she had missed the point.

The point I was making was about English colonisation. And yet, I can imagine the conditioning that resulted in that response – ‘the killer was a person of colour . . . known to be a convert to Islam . . . therefore this man making the comment must be a racist and an Islamophobe’.

Naturally, I wondered who Cymroewrop is, so I checked. In addition to being obviously pro EU this person’s hash tags – #indyrefcymru #indywales @yescymru – tell us that he or she supports Welsh independence. And if we check the profile further then the header photo suggests that Cymroewrop is one of those who believes that only stupid people voted for Brexit. The analogy would appear to be lemmings.

Maybe he or she is one of the ‘progressives’ I wrote about in the post in which I explained why I was voting for Brexit, people on the political left who regard themselves as morally and intellectually superior to those holding different views.

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Cymroewrop’s Twitter timeline is full of retweets of those still fighting the Brexit battle. Predictably, Cymroewrop is also opposed to President Trump. Which brings us to the fundamental problem, and explains my reluctance to get involved in the campaign for an independence referendum.

I suspect that this campaign is attracting too many who see Welsh independence as a route back into the EU. An approach that might – and I stress might – work in Scotland but is more likely to alienate potential support in a country where a majority voted for Brexit. Consequently, promoting EU membership could damage the chances of success in a Welsh independence referendum.

As for Cymroewrop, I don’t know who you are, but it seems obvious to me that while we seem to agree on the need for Welsh independence, we would almost certainly disagree on why we need it.

Getting Personal

The reason I feel so strongly about this link with Brexit is because after the EU referendum last year I received some rather unpleasant messages from people who had obviously voted Remain. Here’s a selection of those I’m prepared to make public, with identification obscured.

The point I was trying to make with the reference to Leanne Wood was that if Brexit is so disastrous for Wales then the day after it was announced I would have expected the leader of Plaid Cymru to be somewhere other than at a Brit feminist conference. This, for me, summed up all that’s wrong with Plaid Cymru.

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These tweets betray the usual precious intolerance of the right-on left. For whom I am an “incomer”, I have blighted the lives of children, I am an utter bastard for exercising my democratic right to disagree with these people who are – remember! – all nationalists in favour of independence.

Perhaps they think that as a child of the Sixties I should now be a mellow old dude; well, I’m not. Yes, I was there, long hair and flares, even the granny glasses; I loved the music, still play my Tom Paxton albums, Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins . . . I just didn’t buy into the politics. Or rather, I saw the need for change, but not the change offered by the Soviet Union, or campus ‘radicals’ going through a phase before joining father in the oak-panelled offices of Shyster Shyster & Shyster. For fuck’s sake! I supported the US in Vietnam.* I am a reactionary beyond redemption! Get used to it.

Comments such as those contained in the tweets are water off a duck’s back to me, but they do make me pause, and wonder if I could ever co-operate with such people in an independence campaign. So you may begin to understand my concerns that a movement for independence could be subverted by those still grieving their referendum defeat last June.

*Though let me make clear that I no longer subscribe to the Domino Theory.

Independence

All my life I have wanted Wales to be independent. The earliest manifestation might have been when, as a ten-year-old in Brynhyfryd school, I submitted as my contribution to the St David’s Day eisteddfod a picture I’d drawn of Llywelyn rejecting the terms offered him by Edward I.

I’d copied it from the Odhams Press volume British History in Strip Pictures, a book I still I have. (Sentimental old bugger that I am!) What possessed a ten-year-old in Swansea, after five years of an essentially English education, hearing almost daily the horrors and heroism of WWII, to select that picture from a volume extolling the greatness of England?

For that’s the kind of book it was. The next page was devoted to ‘The Model Parliament’ and that was followed by two whole pages glorying in ‘The Hammering of the Scots’. The inside covers were given over to a parade of kings and queens of England beginning with William of Normandy.

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So you see, independence is not something I’ve come around to because of Brexit. It’s not even a position I’ve adopted because of the sheer fucking awfulness of the quisling Labour Party, or the smackinthegobability of Alun Cairns, Guto Bebb and the Fat Farmer. It’s a multiplicity of things: it’s the slimeball civil servants running Wales for their London masters; it’s the locusts of the Third Sector who have descended upon us to take what little we have; it’s the lying bastards at the BBC, the Wasting Mule and elsewhere; it’s the fact that someone as obnoxious as Mark James can be left to run one of our councils as if it was his private fiefdom; it’s the realisation that I now belong to the Welsh minority in the area I live.

These combine to tell me that Wales is a corrupt, inefficient, poor, fucked up Third World colony . . . yet it could be so much better.

But maybe things are getting better – look what I picked up in Porthmadog today! Bear Grylls has come to live among us . . . well, he’s come to live in Wales, anyway; I don’t suppose he’ll be mixing much with Welsh people seeing as he’s involved in tourism.

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‘Forage For Wild Foods’, it says! (Let Jac recommend those nice white mushrooms.) Or ‘Learn How To Protect Yourself in the Wild From Attack’. Yes, the grizzlies near Pwllheli are particularly aggressive. ‘Will You ESCAPE from Cabin Wood?’ With any luck, no; you’ll all die; Grylls will then be exposed as a self-promoting, money-grabbing bastard, and the world will be spared his puerile exhibitionism for a long, long time.

A Chorus not a Drone

Wales needs independence, to save us from all the above-mentioned ills and, more importantly, to ensure our survival as a nation.

There are those who agree with me on independence but believe socialism and the EU must be added to the mix. A country in the state Wales is in needs socialism like a dog needs more fleas, and I say that because socialism is a system for distributing wealth, not for creating it.

Which is why I could never join an organisation made up in the main of the sort of persons I introduced you to earlier. But if there were other voices, from other political standpoints, then the call for independence might garner more support, and as a result be more difficult to dismiss.

It could be that the more diverse and diffuse the call for independence the better, for different voices can make a choir, and that’s always preferable to the monotonous whine of the smug and the self-righteous.

Of course, too many different voices can also be discordant, so to avoid this let me suggest that those of us working towards the same objective of independence treat each other with a little more respect in future. We may not like each other, but let’s not give gifts to our enemies and waste time fighting amongst ourselves.

Finally, to put your minds at rest, I’m not planning to start any organisation, but I have no objection to this blog serving as a focus for those who want independence but might not feel comfortable with people who regard them as lemmings, and blighters of their children’s futures.

♦ end ♦

Apr 252014
 

A few days ago I was directed to a piece on the MailOnline website about Barcelona or, more specifically, tourism in Barcelona or, to be really, really specific, high volume and damaging tourism. The problem is that “uncontrolled tourism” is attracting too many low-spending tourists who are turning Barcelona into a ‘theme park’ and making locals feel like strangers in their own city. To give some idea of the perceived problem, in 1993 the city attracted 2.5 million visitors but by 2012 that figure had quadrupled to 10 million. Going to YouTube turned up other videos on a similar theme. One about the Lake District, this one about Snowdonia. And there are others.

Does all this sound familiar – hordes of cheapo tourists over-running a place and making the locals feel like strangers? Of course it does, because it’s what happens in Wales. Though the citizens of Barcelona should be thankful that their city isn’t being bought up by these visitors, looking for holiday homes, a lifestyle change, or somewhere to retire to. Nor is it destroying the Catalan language and identity. And I guarantee that most of the businesses taking the tourists’ money are run by natives of Barcelona. (Though the pickpockets mentioned almost certainly come from further east.)

Wales tourism stats

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The traditional reason that Wales is a low-spend destination for tourists is because tourism in Wales was developed for the convenience of England, not for the benefit of Wales. Which has meant that in practice, we – or those who run tourism here – target English tourists saving their major outlay for holidays abroad, encouraging them to use Wales for weekend breaks and secondary holidays. Then, because these English tourists don’t spend much, we must have them in damaging and unsustainable numbers. This recent news story even rejoiced in the fact that Wales is “affordable” / cheap, without apparently realising that ‘cheap’ is also a derogatory term.

Though the story in WalesOnline is rather confusing. It claims a record 9.93m tourists spending a record £1.7bn in 2013. Yet the figures on the ‘Welsh’ Government website, for 2012 (see panel), claim 10.45m tourists (from the UK and overseas) spending £2,44bn. Presumably the article refers only to tourists from within the UK, though this is not stated.

Numerate readers (of whom I have many) will have worked out that this means in 2012 UK visitors spent on average £165 (up to £171 in 2013), whereas overseas visitors spent on average £405. So why aren’t we doing more to attract overseas visitors, of whom we’d need fewer? Well, in addition to the explanation given above, tourism in Wales also has a political purpose, in that it anglicises Wales; partly by smothering areas in English tourists for months on end and partly by encouraging English tourists to make a permanent move to Wales. And don’t overlook the financial benefits . . . to England. Money spent in Wales by English tourists will eventually make its way back to London, unlike money spent abroad.

(The panel from the ‘Welsh’ Government website also quotes “around 100 million day visits” earning “over £3bn”. I have ignored these figures mainly because we are expected to believe that these are all day trips made from outside Wales; they are not. The most popular pay-to-enter ‘tourist attraction’ in Wales is Swansea Leisure Centre. Most visitors come from within a 15 mile radius. Your next shopping trip or day out in Wrecsam, Llandudno, Aberystwyth, Brecon or Carmarthen may count as a ‘day trip’. So you will understand why I treat such figures with caution, if not contempt. The (nicely rounded) figures for day trips get wild guesswork a bad name, but are, regrettably, what we expect with tourism ‘statistics’.)

The table I’ve compiled (and I hope it’s clear) gives some figures for the tourism industries in Ireland, Scotland and Wales for one year. (Click to enlarge.) The figures for Ireland and Scotland were fairly easy to come by, but not so with the figures for Wales. The ‘Welsh’ Government website is difficult to negotiate, full of guff and propaganda on tourism but low on facts. So I went to StatsWales, the ‘Welsh’ Government’s specialist group for statistics – actually part of an English government department – but the most recent figures available there are for 2010. (A regular failure with StatsWales.)

Tourism table

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A few observations from the table. As an example of how little Wales really earns from tourism note that visitors from the Six Counties to the Republic spent £225 per head, even though many would have been staying with friends and family, or making just a short trip (e.g. Derry to Donegal). Compare this to UK visitors to Wales, who spent just £165. UK visitors to Scotland spent £227 per head. In addition, Scotland made over one billion pounds more than Wales from overseas tourists. Spend per head can be equated with the profit margin, which means that when other considerations – cultural damage, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, etc  – are factored in to the equation then tourism in Wales is a loss-making, bargain basement business. To tourism what the Reliant Robin is to automotive technology. Nothing to be proud of.

Furthermore, reReliant Robinmember that Ireland and Scotland are some four times the size of Wales and both see a ‘spread’ of tourists across the land, whereas most of those who come to Wales head for the west and the north, and stick fairly close to the coast. This, inevitably, results in the kind of overcrowding and unsustainabilty being complained of in Barcelona.

Given the damning facts why is ‘Welsh’ tourism trumpeted as a great success story that cannot be improved on? Why are we constantly reminded that our rural and coastal areas were wastelands ere the arrival of English tourists, and without them to wastelands they will return? In a word, we’ve been brainwashed. We can either continue accepting this ludicrous – and, frankly, racist – propaganda or we can start arguing for a tourism industry for the twenty-first century rather than the nineteenth, one that serves Wales and Welsh people.

Fundamentally, and for benefits across the board, we need to attract more overseas visitors and fewer low-spend tourists from England. To do that we must ditch the defeatist argument that says Scotland and Ireland have a higher international profile. Because even though this may be true today, there are successful tourism destinations now that were unknown a few decades ago. It comes down to promotion, and priorities.

The first priority is for the soi-disant ‘Welsh’ Government to start living up to its name, by putting Welsh interests first. A phased move from caravans to serviced accommodation would be a start. Tourism taxes – especially at ‘hot spots’ – would be another step in the right direction. The second priority must be minimising the influence of the tourism operators who currently control long-term and strategic planning. Few of these are Welsh and consequently have little regard for the damage being inflicted. Too many are driven by self-interest and believe there can never be too many tourists. That’s the major problem with tourism – if you allow it to be run by such people then you end up with the problems of Barcelona, or Venice, or Prague, or Wales. Restraining influences are needed.