Are we doing enough to sell Wrexham?

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

THERE is a famous quote that suggests you can prove anything with statistics.

Now a row has broken out over new figures for tourism in Wrexham.

The council says research shows tourists pumped more than £79 million into the local economy last year – spending £200,000 more than in 2008.

But one leading hotelier says not enough is being done to market the region, claiming Wrexham is not even on the tourism map of the UK.

And another, asked about business now and in 2009, branded it as “awful”.

The council released the figures – put together by research organisation Global Tourism Solutions – yesterday.

They have been assembled using visitor numbers supplied by local hotels, tourist attractions and other businesses.

Apart from claiming a four per cent increase in tourism business over last year, the research says more than 1.56 million tourists visited the borough, including day-trippers and people staying overnight.

Cllr Rodney Skelland, lead member for regeneration and corporate governance, said: “The value of tourism to Wrexham can’t be under-estimated and to see another increase – albeit a modest one – in last year’s economic climate is encouraging.

“2009 was obviously a tough year for many business sectors, yet it is encouraging to see that Wrexham’s tourism industry was able to provide a strong offer.”

But Stephanie Booth, owner of seven large hotels across the region, including two in Wrexham, said not enough was being done to market Wrexham as a destination.

“Wrexham is not known as a tourist product.,” she said.

“When I was negotiating to buy the Wynnstay Arms Hotel in Wrexham I did my own research and rang around a few places in the country asking what they knew about the area.

“Some said they thought it was in a town in England, close to Chester.

“Wrexham doesn’t have an identity that people know about.

“People have a view on Chester and York but not on Wrexham.”

She added: “Wrexham is an undervalued asset and nobody has put together a coherent plan to sell it.

“In terms of tourism, on the scale of one to 100 I’d say Wrexham is a number five.

“There’s a lot of work to do but I’m sure we’ll get there.”

Ian Chapman, general manager of the Cross Lanes Country Hotel in Marchwiel, said he was sceptical about the research.

He said: “At the moment business is awful and 2009 wasn’t a particularly good year either.

“The effect of the general economic conditions last November and Christmas was diabolical.

“Our commercial business from Monday to Friday, which is our bread and butter, is pretty good but on certain days of the week it falls apart.

“I would agree with Stephanie Booth that Wrexham is a secondary destination compared to areas like Chester or York.

“I think more hoteliers in the area would like to know more about this research.”

Wrexham Council says the figures are fed into an internationally recognised research formula, which does the number-crunching needed to calculate the value of tourism to the local economy.

It adds that the process involves collecting and inputting huge amounts of data, which is why the results for 2009 are only just emerging.

A council statement said that of about 200 attractions and providers of graded accommodation known to the council, 35 per cent choose to take part in the initiative - including, in 2009, the Cross Lanes.

Establishments not part of the Visit Wales/AA/ RAC grading process cannot contribute to the statistics.

The statement added: “The Wynnstay hotel at this moment in time does not have a Visit Wales or any other grading.

“Ms Booth is welcome and encouraged to apply for a listing.”

See full story in the Leader

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