Tourism is a very important part of the Welsh Economy. This is because:
Tourists spend over £8 million a day in Wales - this adds up to around £3 billion a year!
About 100,000 people in Wales are employed in the tourism industry. This accounts for nearly ten per cent of the workforce.
Over one million tourists come to Wales every year. The most popular origins of overseas visitors are from the Republic of Ireland, USA and Germany.
The most popular activities for tourists visiting Wales include: walking, swimming and visiting historical attractions such as castles, museums and galleries.
The most popular attraction in Wales is the Museum of Welsh Life which attracts over 600,000 visitors per year.
There are over 80,000 bed spaces available in Wales.
So tourism is really important, but what is it about Wales that makes it such a tourist attraction?
To answer this question we need to know about the different types of tourist attractions. We can classify tourism as being due to either physical or human reasons.
Physical geography means things to do with the natural world. Wales has some beautiful beaches such as this one in Llangrannog in West Wales (Llangrannog is also a human tourist attraction).
Other physical attractions include Mount Snowdon in North Wales. People travel thousands of miles just to see these views.
The three most outstanding places of beauty in Wales have been made National Parks. Other physical attractions include the clean rivers, countryside and even cave systems which extend for miles in underground caverns beneath much of South West Wales.
National Parks are areas of outstanding natural beauty that have been given legal protection by an act of parliament. In Wales there are three National Parks:
The Snowdonia National Park in North Wales
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in West Wales
The Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales
Human geography means things to do with people in Wales. This can include cultural, historical or even sporting events. Cultural includes things to do with language and art. Llangrannog attracts tourists not just because of its beach but because it has a residential centre owned by Urdd Gobaith Cymru (Wales's League of Youth). This is where people go to learn and improve their Welsh language skills.
Other major cultural attractions include Eisteddfods such as the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod which this year will be attracting thousands of tourists to North Wales between 5th – 11th July.
A major category is historical and includes sites like the magnificent castles of North Wales such as this one here in Caernarvon. Other historical attractions include industrial sites such as the National Slate Museum in Llanberis in North Wales or the Big Pit mining museum in Blaenavon in South Wales.
Sporting activities also attract large numbers of visitors to Wales either as spectators or as participants. Big spectator events include the rugby internationals, the Wales Rally G.B. and in October 2010 the Ryder Cup will be be help in Wales.
The most obvious benefit of tourism to an area is that tourists spend money and this provides jobs. Nearly ten per cent of jobs in Wales depend directly on tourism and many more depend on the money that these jobs earn. However, there are other benefits like improved facilities such as swimming pools or cinemas to accommodate tourists.
It is not all good news! Tourists bring problems: walkers leave open farm gates or drop litter causing farmers many problems (tourists don't always follow the countryside code).
Respect - Protect - Enjoy
Be Safe - plan ahead and follow any signs.
Leave gates and property as you find them.
Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home.
Keep dogs under close control.
Consider other people.
Popular tourist spots are sometimes called honeypot sites – a sweet honeypot left in the garden on a warm summer's day soon attracts a lot of wasps and starts to become something nasty! When too many tourists visit a place they spoil it. This includes pollution from cars, crowds of people and far too often traffic jams on motorways during the tourism season.
These disadvantages sometimes leads to Conflict. Conflict doesn't mean fighting but road rage has led to more than one bout of fisticuffs! It means that different people want different things. For example, a tourist wants to visit an area to go walking; this is great for a hotel owner and local pub landlord. But this is bad news for farmer who has a sheep killed on a road because the walker left a field gate open!
Choose a tourist attraction that you have visited in Wales:
What are the physical and human features that attract tourists?
What are the benefits of tourism to that location?
What are the disadvantages of tourism to that location?
What kinds of conflicts might this create?