Health

Tourism pollution in Wales assuaged with £26m funding

The Welsh Government has announced £26m of funding to make tourism more sustainable and the countryside more resilient, as the nation prepares for the summer holidays.

Over one million tourists visit Wales every year. In 2021, the number of visitors from within the UK drastically increased, as people avoided travelling abroad due to the impact of COVID-19.

In light of its popularity as a tourist destination, the Welsh government is taking steps to address the carbon footprint that the industry generates, as the country prepares for the summer holidays. 

Last summer, social media platforms and news outlets were awash with pictures of overcrowding in popular destinations such as Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, where there were daily queues to reach the summit. Globally, studies suggest that carbon dioxide emissions from tourism could increase by more than 300 per cent by the end of the century if nothing is done to address this. 

To tackle this challenge, the Welsh government will provide £26m to roll out more charging points for electric vehicles, invest in biodiversity in Wales’ three national parks – which make up a quarter of the country’s land – and maintain and improve its walking trails.

“As more people are discovering the magic of the Welsh countryside, we must make sure it can deal with the pressures,” said climate change minister Julie James.

“Our vision is of a countryside where communities can continue to work and flourish, where visitors can enjoy whilst leaving only footprints behind, and where plants and wildlife can make a real comeback.”

Along with policies to protect the environment, the government is also supporting improvements to transport and facilities, particularly around visitor hotspots, James said.

Moreover, the minister also underlined the mental and physical health benefits of spending time in nature and stressed some of the projects that the country has underway to protect its natural habitats and parks. Projects such as the Wales Coast Path enable tourist walkers to trek the country’s entire 1,400km coastline, whilst plans are “well underway” to create a national forest for Wales that stretches from the north to the south of the country, James explained.

The Welsh Government is also currently consulting on the possibility of introducing a tourism tax, as is common in many countries in Europe, in case none of these measures are able to address the environmental impact of tourism in the country.

However, this mooted policy has raised some criticism, as a recent survey by the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions found many members were concerned such a policy would drive tourists away, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis. The Welsh Conservatives also said it would “cost jobs and hurt businesses”.

Meanwhile, local authorities will be able to set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300 per cent from April 2023. The criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates instead of council tax will also change at the same time, from 70 to 182 days.

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