Saturday, 8 August 2020

We are all tourists at some time , but we need to consider our own impact.

 Were ever we are from, we nearly all at some stage and at least once a year usually , end up being tourists and we far to often  do not consider the effect we have on the area we are visiting.

Since the Corona virus the impact of tourism  and indeed  the benefits it  may bring  have been brought into question .

The impact on local amenities  can  be dramatic and in parts of Wales and the rest of the UK  a great strain on our Health services for which the  local Health Boards must often beat the costs.

The news that Gwynedd for example is being overwhelmed by tourists, politicians have warned the first minister is not unexpected.

The BBC reports that 

Areas like Abersoch and Barmouth have been particularly busy since lockdown eased.

Plaid Cymru has written to Mark Drakeford to express concern and locals say "tensions are building" as they try to maintain social distancing measures.

The Welsh Government said it was working with local authorities to ensure everyone's safety.

"We expect everyone to fully comply with the coronavirus regulations in place in Wales," a spokeswoman added.

Businesses have argued visitors are needed to recoup lockdown losses.

A letter to Mr Drakeford, signed by four politicians as well as the leader and deputy leader of Gwynedd Council, said "unprecedented numbers" of visitors were making it difficult to observe social distancing in seaside towns and beaches.

"Unfortunately, the numbers flocking here are more than can be dealt with, which leads to a situation beyond the ability of the authorities to maintain order," said the letter from Helen Mary Jones MS, which was signed by Siân Gwenllian MS, Hywel Williams MP, Liz Saville Roberts MP and council leaders Dyfrig Siencyn and Dafydd Meurig.

"There were so many people... that the social distancing rule could not be observed."

They called on Mr Drakeford to "consider what measures you can put in place to control the numbers travelling here to guard against the spread of coronavirus".


Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, Gwynedd GP Dr Eilir Hughes said: "Tensions are building and patience is start to run low now.

"It's very palpable in the community. People are finding it difficult to understand the rules."

But Ffion Jones, who owns the Pwyth Pistyll gift shop in Pwllheli, said businesses need the extra visitors after lockdown.

"It's very busy. The last days have been the busiest I've had since opening six years ago," she said.

"I think it's needed especially after the whole lockdown situation because we're not going to have an economy if it carries on."

She added it was shopkeepers' responsibility to remind both locals and visitors about social distancing rules.

"I've seen so many posts on social media about 'us and them' and I don't think that's right," she said.

"Shops, little shops especially, need business. They want to grow, they want to boost the economy, they want staff. We have to adapt to it and grow. "

It is obviously  as it always been a difficult  balance.

How do you encourage Tourism but in a manner that does not ruin the very area that they are visiting and where dependency on tourism does not have in the end have a negative impact on the economy.

The issue of Second Homes is a prominent one as local people ironically , have to leave thier area because they cmmot afford to live there.

Siân Gwenllian, Member of Senedd for Arfon, and Plaid’s Deputy Leader for Party Policy, says that the proliferation of second homes has escalated to such an extent in some areas of Wales that a large proportion of locals are now priced out of the area, whilst the local demand for social housing outstrips supply. Ms Gwenllian has called for package of measures to give control over an area that she says “Welsh Government does not yet have a handle on, nor shows the political will to tackle.”

Councillor Craig ab Iago, Housing Leader in Gwynedd Council, says that 60% of Gwynedd's residents cannot afford to buy a house in the county, whilst figures recently published by Welsh Revenue Authority for March 2019-April 2020 show that almost 40% of properties sold in Gwynedd were purchased as second homes – the highest in Wales. Cllr ab Iago says that properties in his ward are often marketed solely as second home opportunities by estate agents, and it is akin to “rubbing salt on a wound.”

According to data from Gwynedd Council's housing department, an additional 811 houses are required each year in Gwynedd to meet current local demand, but with 830 houses “lost” as second homes, this creates a shortfall of 1,641 houses each year.

Ms Gwenllian points out that this isn’t just a rural issue. Swansea City Council data estimates around 1800 properties in the City are second homes, with the Gower, Swansea West and the Marina areas of the City being most affected. The majority of people owning such properties within Swansea have their normal home outside of the city area.

However as I said we are all potential tourists  and we should not readily condemn others for what we do.

What we need is a Tourist Tax that could be  together  ending the  legal loophole which allows second home owners to avoid paying council tax is costing North Wales local authorities millions in lost revenue give local authorities the chance to help local people find suitable housing in the place where they live.

But they also need jobs and not just in the (seasonal) tourists industry .

How e do this should be a priority for the next Senedd.

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