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First Minister visits sunny Saundersfoot to celebrate Wales as top tourism spot

Prif Weinidog Cymru yn ymweld â thref fach hardd Saundersfoot i ddathlu Cymru fel prif gyrchfan i dwristiaid.

First Minister Mark Drakeford took time to enjoy an ice-cream on Saundersfoot Harbour as he visited the impressive new Wales International Coastal Centre that will fully open in 2023.

The First Minister visited the picturesque harbour as the latest figures are published today showing three quarters (75%) of Welsh tourism businesses saw an increase or maintained visitor levels over the May half term.

The Wales Tourism Business Barometer shows visitor numbers were up 25% compared to pre-pandemic levels, with restaurants, pubs and cafes enjoying a busy Jubilee bank holiday weekend as 38% of hospitality businesses experienced more customers than usual. 

Speaking from the harbour, which has received more than £5.7 million from the Welsh Government backed by EU funding, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “It’s wonderful to visit stunning Saundersfoot and see the impressive new Wales International Coastal Centre.

“Wales is a place of world-class adventures, from the best mountain biking in Britain to the first inland surf lagoon in the world to outstanding natural landscapes and creative culture.  And, in the year in which we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our trailblazing Wales Coast Path it’s wonderful to see the innovative developments taking place in Saundersfoot.  I encourage people from across Wales and further afield to get out and explore a new corner of Wales over the summer.”

While there are encouraging signs of strength in the sector, there are concerns about the rising cost of living and people being able to afford going on holiday. Meanwhile, businesses are experiencing significant rises in operating costs, without wanting to pass increases onto customers over fears of pricing themselves out of the market.

The First Minister added: “It’s great that Wales’ tourism businesses were buoyed by the Jubilee bank holiday boost, but this is a worrying time for the sector, with rising inflation, increasing operating costs and staffing challenges.

“We will do all we can to make sure Wales has a successful summer season. Our vision for Wales is to grow tourism for the good of Wales, which means working with communities, visitors and businesses to achieve sustainable growth for tourism.”

In further research from the Visit Britain Domestic Sentiment Tracker, 39% of respondents said they are more likely to choose a UK trip than an overseas trip compared to pre-pandemic. The top reasons for this preference being that UK holidays are easier to plan, and long queues at airports or cancelled flights.

The Welsh Government will be continuing its support of the tourism sector in several targeted ways. Visit Wales does not traditionally run a campaign at this time of year, but in order to bolster confidence and keep Wales front of mind for those making last minute holiday plans, a publicity campaign comprising of TV, video on demand and paid digital activity will target key audiences in Wales and across the UK during July.

The Croeso advert features a “sunrise to sunset” example of a day in Wales. Using locations and products from across the country, the material features a variety of experiences, from dolphin spotting boat trips and great accommodation to eating out and music gigs.

Support is also available for the tourism sector to recruit staff. The Experience Makers campaign to raise awareness of the high numbers of vacancies and of the variety of career opportunities available in the industry will continue during 2022/23.

This activity sits alongside other Visit Wales support for industry in their first year of recovery including collaboration with Superfast Business Wales to help promote and encourage digital training to enable operators to stay on top of their marketing. Visit Wales have also enabled the introduction of TXGB, an online business to business platform for operators to extend their marketing reach. The platform gives businesses the option of better access to online sales channels at lower commission rates, which means a business can promote their offering cost-effectively and drive more direct bookings.

Notes to editors

The redevelopment of Saundersfoot Harbour comprises a series of linked developments that will establish Saundersfoot as an all-year coastal tourism destination in South West Wales. The four developments are:

Marine Centre of Excellence and Coastal Storm Centre  

Short stay accommodation, food outlets, watersports academy, marine servicing area and storm interpretation centre

National Events Deck

A covered area that addresses the essential need for an all-weather facility at Saundersfoot and establishes a base for events and activities.

Ocean Square Heritage & Arts Centre

Retail units, covered plaza, short stay accommodation, visitor and heritage centre

Coastal Schooner Centre


The expected Completion date for the whole development is March 2023.

Funding package

ERDF awarded £4,000,000

TMF awarded £952,916 (Welsh Government Match funding)

TISS awarded £700,000 (Welsh Government Match funding)

Total project cost: £10,118,967