Audit Wales says protecting National Parks with economic benefits of tourism a “challenge”

BALANCING the protection of the National Park with the economic benefits of tourism is a “challenge” not just in Pembrokeshire but across Wales.

Audit Wales has carried out a review of sustainable tourism in Wales’ three national parks which are all well-known tourist destinations with increasing visitor numbers.

A report was presented to members of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA) audit and corporate committee this week, highlighting the increased need to “conserve the special qualities” under growing pressure from tourism.

The review found that PCNPA “leads on sustainable tourism in the National Park, but needs to communicate its vision, priorities resources and fully involve communities and businesses in taking forward this agenda.”

The committee heard on Wednesday (May 11) that 281 businesses had been surveyed as part of the work but the majority of those had been in Snowdonia, with 41 from Pembrokeshire, and 12 local officers and two members had been included.

The development of the destination management plan with Visit Pembrokeshire was highlighted as having a positive impact as was the authority’s collaborations with others in delivering its statutory purpose.

More effective engagement with communities and businesses in a bid to “influence visitor behaviour” was required, the report adds, which was acknowledged by chief executive Tegryn Jones.

Mr Jones added that the current Coast to Coast newspaper created by the authority “looks like a sustainable tourism publication this year” with a focus on “treading lightly” and not damaging the park.

An overall issue with behaviour was highlighted by Dr Rachel Heath-Davies, who said “people out there do believe they can go anywhere, at any time” with a discussion needed about who owns what and what powers are available.

The Audit Wales report added that overcoming the “Instagram” effect was difficult to manage, with use of social media to promote areas that needed more protection, particularly during sensitive breeding seasons, often out of the park’s control.

It is recommended that the authority “clearly define its sustainable tourism outcomes and revisit planned actions” as well as review the effectiveness of its existing promotional work along with review its use of data to promote and manage tourism.

Involvement with the community should also be reviewed particularly working with local partnerships and local communities, the report adds.

Katy Jenkins - Local Democracy Reporter

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