(Title Image: © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-2.0)
“A beacon of our nation’s natural beauty”
Deputy Minister for the Environment, Hannah Blythyn (Lab, Delyn), told AMs that since it was established in 2012, the Wales Coastal Path has become “a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty”, supporting 1,000 jobs and generating £84million in visitor spending.
£1million-a-year is invested in the path’s upkeep through Natural Resources Wales and alongside more recent initiatives – such as new circular routes and publicity material – the coastal path will soon exploit emerging technologies:
“A revamped website is in development. It will provide up-to-date information and a new interactive mapping tool. Natural Resources Wales is also working on a new augmented reality app, which will include engaging visuals, informative stories and interactive games.”
– Deputy Minister for the Environment, Hannah Blythyn
The Deputy Minister also hinted at introducing an incentive system to reward people for completing sections of the path – but there were no further details.
Improving accessibility; encouraging innovation
Government and opposition AMs alike were upbeat.
Shadow Tourism Minister, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central), was pleased by how the government was encouraging innovation, whilst also taking time to praise the work undertaken by Ramblers Cymru to promote events on the path.
His main concern was about access for the disabled and problems with off-road bikers – said to be a particular issue in Flintshire. He also believed the Welsh Government should use marketing efforts for the coastal path to fund a general walking strategy across Wales as well as an international promotion strategy.
Both David Melding and Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) made the case for encouraging the development of high-end tourist facilities along the route, as the people using the path tend to be high-end tourists with money to spend but who currently perhaps don’t spend as much as they could.
Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) stressed the need for responsible tourism. While the benefits of physical activity were well known, the coastal path can play a vital role in conservation – both in terms of nature and culture; too many places along the path and elsewhere have lost their historic Welsh names.
Following a paean to the Gower coastline, Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) said he was someone who will spend money locally after walking in the area. He thought there was potential to get more people to the path by tying it into TrawsCymru:
“I wonder if the Deputy Minister could speak to her colleague dealing with public transport, to have a look….at the TrawsCymru buses, because a lot of people I know have made really good use of the free weekend TrawsCymru transport….But the number of people I speak to who are walking sections of the coastal path using the free bus pass or the TrawsCymru weekend bus and then walking sections back and then catching it again – it’s really opened it up. In terms of social inclusion and healthy lifestyles and so on, it’s a major innovation.”
– Huw Irranca-Davies AM