Zip World’s director has said Wales needs a rebrand to make it more attractive to UK and international tourists, and “get away from sheep, wet weather and…rugby”.
Sean Taylor testified before the Welsh Affairs Committee on Wednesday, saying the nation should instead promote its adventure tourism destinations, “incredible” food and drink and numerous heritage sites.
Taylor was joined by Penderyn Distillery CEO Stephen Davies, Ian Roberts of Portmeirion Cymru and Paul Lewin of FFestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, who agreed that the country is often “overshadowed” by Scotland, Ireland and England due to its comparatively “weak” brand.
“It’s a long-term and complicated strategy how we build the Welsh brand, and I think we definitely need to move away from sheep, wet weather and even as chairman of my local rugby club, rugby as well. Because football has come to the fore now,” Taylor said.
“If you look at branding in Wales, it’s quite weak compared to Irish branding and Scottish branding in particular.
“At the moment, I think we overshadowed each other quite a bit. You have the Royal Family in London, you have tartan and Loch Ness in Scotland and in Ireland you have Guinness.”
Other suggestions included greater use of the country’s name Cymru, rather than the English version of Wales, and placing an emphasis on the Welsh language.
“Language needs to be weaponized as an asset, not a threat,” Taylor said.
“I feel like there are often negative connotations about language. But our international and English visitors love the use of the Welsh language.
“We receive school groups from England and when they leave they can say ‘bore da’, ‘prynhawn da’, ‘croeso’. They love him, they hug him.”
Zip World has three locations in North Wales, one of which is home to the world’s fastest zip line.
Mr Roberts, from Portmeirion, the Italianate resort town, said: “We have always placed a strong emphasis on culture, tradition and language. Over 90% of the people who work at Portmeirion speak Welsh.
“We believe that tourists who come to Portmeirion enjoy hearing the language and enjoy hearing that it is a vibrant and living language.
“We think more could be used, including using the term Cymru other than Wales,” he added.
“As we’ve seen with the Welsh football team, they’ve really developed, on and off the pitch, the use of the Welsh language, and the use of Cymru has been a huge factor in that.”
The companies called on the Welsh government to increase its tourism budget, as it is a delegated power, to improve communication about the identity of Wales and why people should visit.
Mr Lewin, who runs the UK’s longest heritage railway, said: “We don’t have a crisp and clear proposal for Wales. And a brand for a country should be built on a common theme.
“A day like today is screaming at us that what all tourist attractions in Wales have in common is the setting. It’s the wonderful setting, the wonderful scenery, and how accessible it is compared to a lot of other places.”
Penderyn’s boss, Mr Davies, who is soon to open a third distillery in Swansea and exports Welsh single malt whiskey to more than 40 countries, said: “Actually, when you walk across the Severn Bridge, you don’t feel like you’re in a country that is selling itself.
“There is a huge opportunity to improve communication with visitors who come to Wales, because they have come here, they have made the effort, let’s keep them here or bring them back.
“And to sell a much more premium message to people who are thinking of coming but haven’t been here yet.”