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Number of tourist attractions has fallen in Wales over past decade, reveals survey; Almost 90 have gone out of business while 86 have opened.

Byline: Rachael Misstear

A NEW study of visitor attractions in Wales over the last decade has shown that their number has fallen for the first time ever.

First results from the research by Lampeter University show the industry has seen massive turbulence - and although 86 new attractions opened their doors in the space of a decade, almost 90 went out of business. It is a sharp contrast to a decade of growth where visitor attractions doubled in number during 1988-1998.

The National Waterfront Museum, Swansea, and National Botanic Garden of Wales have been high-profile new places to visit in the last 10 years, but overall the industry has declined.

The research is being carried out by Huw Thomas of the Department of Management & IT at the University of Wales, Lampeter.

"Figures from the Welsh Assembly show that tourists spend about pounds 8m a day on trips to Wales, yet there are huge gaps in our knowledge of where they go and what they see," said Mr Thomas.

"The only information available on who operates the places that people visit comes from an annual survey that is voluntary and completed by much less than half of all attractions. I've been trying to fill the gaps, and the early results show that the number of visitor attractions in Wales is now slightly lower than it was 10 years ago at about 575. This is interesting since, before that, the number of attractions had doubled in the decade 1988 to 1998."

Among the new attractions opening were the Conwy Mussel Museum, Gower Coast Adventures, and 1940s Swansea Bay, while attractions such as Penscynnor Wildlife Park, Celtica and Penhow Castle closed.

Mr Thomas said that the research would continue to investigate the main factors behind the changes, concentrating on business management and marketing. "It may be that some attractions survive because of public funding. We are finding that commercial attractions are not accessing European funds in the same way that publicly-funded ones do, but factors such as better marketing and location may also play a role.

Ian Rutherford of Wales Association of Visitor Attractions said that the figures pointed to a change in trends and interest of visitors. "This research shows that the tourist attractions market is very dynamic and I don't think there is anything negative in that.

"Just as within any other market, the popularity of an attraction is dependent on fashions and trends and all attractions have to survive in a competitive market.

"However, it will be interesting to see how publicly-funded attractions fare against those which are commercial organisations."

Folly Farm at Begelly, one of Pembrokeshire's most popular visitor attractions, has gone from strength to strength in its 22 years as a privately-owned attraction.

Managing director Chris Ebsworth said: "Ours is a familyrun business, set up when there was a gap in the market for an educational-based visitor attraction.

Since we opened in 1988 our visitor numbers have risen from 18,000 to 400,000 annually.

"Having a strong business plan is vital to secure funding to develop any commercially viable business and marketing definitely plays a crucial role."

Some of those attractions which have opened since 1998 Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire (1999) National Waterfront Museum, Swansea (2005) National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire (2000) 1940s Swansea Bay, Swansea (2005) Egypt Centre, Swansea (1998) Abertillery Museum, Blaenau Gwent (2001) Machinations, Powys (2002) Spaceguard Centre, Powys (2001) And some of those which have closed Beaumaris Marine World, Anglesey (2001) Celtica, Gwynedd (2005) Wales Aircraft Museum, Cardiff (2000) Welsh Industrial & Maritime Museum, Cardiff (1998) Penscynnor Wildlife Port Talbot (1999) Begelly Pottery, Pembrokeshire (2004) Knights Caverns, Denbighshire (2000) St David's Oceanarium, Pembrokeshire (2004)
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 12, 2010
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