KEN SKATES | POLITICS INTERVIEW
Luke Owain Boult speaks with the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Transport Ken Skates about boosting tourism and next year’s campaign, the Year of Legends.
What’s planned for the Year of Legends?
The Year of Legends is about bringing the past to life like never before, with cutting-edge innovation. It’s about creating and celebrating new Welsh legends – modern-day personalities, products and events that are made in Wales, or enriched by coming here. Our cultural assets will be injected with just as much creativity as we have seen igniting the ‘adventure’ sector, with activities that are unmistakably Wales, and internationally outstanding.
2017 will showcase all kinds of attractions, events, and activities. There will be an unprecedented programme at events at Cadw’s Castles and heritage sites, for example, culminating in the unveiling of major new arts installations based on a legends theme. And across Wales things will be going on, from the centenary of Hedd Wyn at the Ysgwrn, to pop up accommodation at legendary locations. We’ll be re-telling some of our stories through exciting contemporary, cultural platforms such as the Tiger Bay Musical to be staged in Cardiff.
The programme will include fresh, innovative ways of discovering our culture and heritage.
It will showcase legends of the past alongside contemporary legends such as Gareth Bale and Doctor Who.
There will be great sporting occasions, such as the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff and international arts events, and we’ll showcase legendary Welsh products.
What can be done to raise the international profile of Welsh mythology and history?
We know that culture and heritage are strong attractors for international audiences; but the theme also offers the deep authenticity that today’s domestic markets seek-out.
Local meets global; old infused with new. Our programme aims to bring these aspects together in exciting ways. As I said, Cadw’s programme will feature more Open Doors events than ever: a thrilling medieval Tournament in Conway; and lots of local events across Wales.
We will celebrate a land of storytelling, working with VisitBritain to mark the release of a new film about King Arthur, and recognising global talent inspired by Wales, from Dahl to Dylan Thomas to Tolkien, with tours and trails.
A rich and inspiring programme of events, exhibitions and collections delivered by major cultural partners including Amgueddfa Cymru and the National Library of Wales will feature legendary works and themes.
We know for a fact that our German visitors are particularly interested in built heritage such as castles and historical houses, our stunning countryside; they like activities such as walking and hiking predominantly and are also keen on local experiences such as food and drink. The Year of Legends is a perfect opportunity for us to package all these things together, things which are of interest to our target market, and inspire them to visit Wales, and our campaign will launch in Germany before Christmas.
Has Brexit had much impact on your strategy for Visit Wales?
2016 wasn’t just about the Year of Adventure, it was also the year of the Brexit referendum. This has changed the context for the Year of Legends, making it ever-more important to internationalise the quality of our product offer with world-class innovation; and to sell Wales to the world with renewed energy like never before. At the moment, tourism forecasts, in the short-term at least, are looking very positive and we will do as much as we can to make the most of this here in the UK, in Europe, as well as in markets such as the US. Tour operators are already reporting a strong growth in interest from this market post-Brexit
Is it fair to say that there’s an underappreciation of Welsh mythology within Wales?
The Year of Legends presents us with a unique opportunity to revisit, reimagine and retell our stories to new audiences across the world. Our myths, legends and stories have made us who we are today and next year will give us the chance to celebrate our rich history and heritage whilst also looking at the present and future to focus in on our emerging and new legends; people who are doing good things right now in Wales. In many ways, our myths and legends are yet to be introduced to new audiences, but other legends made in Wales, Merlin, King Arthur, are appreciated the world over, and highlight the scale of the opportunity ahead.
Year of Legends. Info: www.cadw.gov.wales