North Wales Economic Ambition Board is united in working to rebuild the region’s hard-hit tourism sector.
With no date announced for when hospitality businesses, bars, hotels and attractions in the region can safely reopen, there are challenges ahead for the industry.
The Ambition Board met formally on Friday (June 12) for the first time since the Coronavirus pandemic hit the UK and has been busy behind the scenes supporting companies in myriad arenas facing hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A report has been commissioned with leading academics to explore solutions and support forward planning, and work in the pipeline will result in an economic impact assessment of the industry and direct engagement with tourism operators to understands their needs.
North Wales Growth Deal funding will be unlocked in 2021 – £16million annually over the next 15 years, excluding private sector investment – and with projects lined up to begin when that capital is received, jobs will be created, there will be improvements to the energy, digital and manufacturing landscape, and more.
The Ambition Board had initially sought a £328million commitment from the Welsh and UK Governments but was awarded £240m last autumn, and it will push for further investment for tourism in the months ahead.
With the Programme Office set to expand later this year, as new faces join to take pivotal programmes forward, they are determined to make progress and bolster the economy in the wake of the current crisis.
Cllr Dyfrig Siencyn, chair of the Ambition Board and leader of Gwynedd County Council, hopes businesses can open as soon as it is possible to do so safely and securely, with social distancing measures being implemented where necessary.
He has been in talks with David Davies, Under Secretary of State for Wales, and Minister for North Wales Ken Skates to make the case for urgent specific funding for high-value sustainable tourism from both Governments.
“The tourism industry has been severely hit and faced many challenges in past months,” said Cllr Siencyn.
“We are all devastated by the impact Covid-19 has had on hospitality and are fully aware of the importance this sector plays in generating jobs, visitors and many millions of pounds for the economy.
“North Wales is the adventure capital of the UK, we are known for our incredible scenery, the beaches, landmarks, countryside and our rich history and culture that attract people from all over the world every year.
“We feel the pain and urgency of our tourism operators, hoteliers and everyone who is suffering, and we are listening.”
He added: “We are going to have to work together, unite in taking a positive approach and, as a priority, must continue to have the safety and wellbeing of our population at the heart of all decisions. I know a lot of communities are worried about visitors returning before it is safe to do so, and we understand their concern.
“Every industry has been affected, and the Growth Deal is now more important than ever as it will spark a period of transition, regeneration and collaboration when we need it most.”
The Ambition Board is made up of all six local authorities in North Wales, Coleg Cambria and Grwp Llandrillo Menai, Wrexham Glyndwr University, Bangor University, and private sector representatives.
They are united in their support for businesses and families that have been affected by Coronavirus and, driven by the Programme Office, have been working with partners – including Careers Wales, the North Wales Regional Skills Partnership and the Department of Work and Pensions – to coordinate services and communications for anyone facing redundancy, uncertainty, or for people furloughed and looking at a change of career.
They have also been signposting people to grant funding and Government support schemes, online training, and skills opportunities.
Programme Director Alwen Williams added: “We are working hard to lay the foundations for a transformational Growth Deal that will have a long-lasting and positive impact on jobs and the economy for generations.
“But we know that in the short term many people are in a tough, even impossible position.
“We are here for you and will continue to work hard together, plan for the future and engage our Welsh and UK Government colleagues to get North Wales moving, as soon and as safely as possible.”