It’s a fact: locals know where to find the best restaurants. But this truth can also easily be applied to a region’s best holiday spots.
Case in point: Wales is hugely popular among UK holidaymakers, who last year numbered a record ten million in the region. But despite its popularity with Brits, most international visitors still overlook the small nation, unaware of what it has to offer.
Sitting down with Traveltalk at Destination Britain’s annual APMEA event in Bali, Visit Wales’ Mike Price said Wales had everything the other countries had, and “in a smaller package as well”.
“Wales gets 10 million UK visitors, but just over a million overseas visitors. So British people know it’s a fantastic destination,” he says.
“It’s just that internationally it doesn’t have that brand the other UK countries have.”
Price puts part of the relative lack in visitor numbers down to the fact that very few people left the country in the 19th century, compared to Ireland and Scotland, which saw emigration in the droves.
“So we don’t have that massive diaspora,” he said, in relation to the heritage and VFR tourism markets other regions largely rely upon.
But there’s also the misconception that Wales is a long way from the rest of the UK.
“From Central London to Cardiff it is only two hours by train,” Price says. And it’s about to get closer, with the addition of an electric train in two years time cutting that journey to “around an hour and a half”.
“For Aussies coming from the other side of the planet, travelling an hour and a half … you wouldn't even think about that, would you?”
Some 67,000 Aussies visited Wales in 2013 (latest figures), making it the fourth biggest overseas market for the country. And more growth is expected in 2014’s figures, which will shortly be released.
So what does Wales have to offer? For starters, Price says, its coastline, pointing out Three Cliffs Bay, Barafundle, and Rhossili, the last of which is often voted Britain’s best beach, and even one of the world’s best.
“Lots of people come to walk the Coast Track … it’s the only country in the world where you can walk around the edge of an entire country,” he says. With 641 castles, Wales also has more castles than any other country in Europe, according to Price.
Additionally, there’s food and wine tourism, much of which is based on the region’s excellent seafood, its ubiquitous dairy and its national dish, lamb.
And then there’s film tourism, with countless blockbusters such as Robin Hood (starring Russell Crowe), Clash of the Titans, Harry Potter, Inglourious Basterds, The Dark Knight Rises and Lara Croft Tombraider, among those filmed in the country.
Throw in this year’s Rugby World Cup, and The Ashes, and the only way is up for Wales tourism.
Have you been to Wales? Would you consider travelling there on your next trip to the UK?