A plan to strengthen links between key visitor destination hubs in and around Wrexham has received a mixed response from councillors.
Earlier this year Wrexham Council enlisted the help of Team Tourism, based in Edinburgh, to put forward a Destination Management (DM) plan for Wrexham and the surrounding area. Their final report is due to go before the Council’s Executive Board next week and assesses both the strengths and weaknesses of the county borough as a tourist destination, before providing an action plan for how to maximise the strengths and address the weaknesses.
Last night Wrexham.com went along to the Employment, Business & Investment Scrutiny Committee. There Joe Bickerton, Regeneration Project Manager for the DM plan pointed out £95m was contributed to the county borough through tourism in 2011, with 1650 jobs in the sector alone. It is believed with more investment in facilities and a more unified approach the time visitors spend in the county borough could significantly increase. The DM plan identifies three key hubs; Chirk Castle (& the Ceiriog Valley), Erddig Hall and the World Heritage Site of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, with Wrexham town centre noted as an emerging hub.
Cllr Malcolm Taylor was disappointed to see the town centre not included as a key hub saying “Wrexham town centre has to be the hub, investment in our town centre is crucial for the future.”
Focus then shifted to the gateways for these hubs and the importance of first impressions for visitors. The use of appropriate signage was used as an example of the first impression given to visitors, with particular emphasis given to town centre gateways such as the bus and train station. The committee called on the need for more signage on the road gateways into the region, such as the A483. Chair of the committee Cllr Rodney Skelland called on the need for private sector investment to aid clearer signage in these key areas.
Cllr Paul Pemberton called for the gateways to Wrexham town centre to be prioritised, pointing out that gateways to the town centre need to be improved and not hindered – with Stansty bridge used as an example of this.
As part of the action plan put forward by Team Tourism a Destination Partnership has been set up, whereby stakeholders from both the public and private sector will meet on a regular basis to address the tourist offering in the area and deliver six projects identified in the plan. Though this was welcomed amongst committee members, Cllr Alun Jenkins raised concerns about the financial viability of the projects saying:
“In order to achieve the proposals we have here, we just simply haven’t got the funding. When we talk about these key hubs it’s not a case of tens of thousands of pounds, but hundreds of thousands, even millions.”
Cllr Jenkins was too concerned that existing tourist attractions in the Wrexham area would struggle to be maintained given the cuts to council budgets.
Phil Wynn, Councillor for Brynyffynnon said the report focused too much on the older demographic and felt there was a need to embrace a younger audience:
“We really have to focus on the digital age. Younger people have disposable income too and we need to make sure we are appealing to that group.”
The DM plan spans from 2012-2017 and suggests upward turns in tourism on successful delivery of the projects identified.
You can read the report as presented last night – here.
There are also further documents linked from within the report – with one , the Destination Plan, marked “**RESTRICTED** ” – you can however read it here. Similarly ‘restricted’ is the DM ‘action plan’ , viewable here.