Killing badgers risks seriously wounding tourism
With decisions imminent yet again on whether to kill thousands of badgers in west Wales, and now south west England as well, people are once again highlighting the very real risk of blighting tourism in these areas - and with it many local jobs and businesses. A recent report by the British Hospitality Association ‘Hospitality in Wales: driving local economies and underpinning communities’ reinforces how vital this sector is to our economy saying “The hospitality industry is one of the main pillars of the Welsh economy and the economic driver of almost every part of the country.” It identifies each local authority area in Wales and the contribution made to it by the hospitality industry in terms of employment and net wealth creation. Pembrokeshire is the third most dependent on this sector with it representing 15.2% of total employment.
The Welsh Government announced earlier in 2011 that tourism and hospitality will be designated a priority sector by the Department responsible for Business and Economy, recognising it’s importance to Wales, especially to regional economies. This is good news – but let’s hope that translates to ensuring all departments proposing major programmes must actually consider their impact on tourism before approval. There was no such consideration by Elin Jones, former Minister for Rural Affairs when she pursued her first proposals to kill large numbers of badgers in west Wales. Many people then raised the damage to tourism as a serious issue but received no satisfactory response. Some reported the ill effects of the threat of a cull on their businesses directly to PAC – bookings plummeting as visitors, many of them regulars who came specifically for the wildlife and beautiful unspoilt countryside, recoiled from the prospect. And some told us how bookings and activity picked up immediately once the Court of Appeal quashed the first order to cull – one said the phone literally started ringing again the day after the ruling.
We’ve recently been asked about our experience by people in south west England already very worried about the effect on their area’s appeal and tourist reliant businesses if a cull goes ahead – especially if it’s on the scale proposed by some groups of farmers. Here’s a selection of comments and experiences sent to PAC when the cull loomed close – they say it all.
‘Didn’t get across to Skomer this year but seen plenty of other wildlife including badgers, amazing the authorities can even consider a cull is abhorrent.’ –quote in visitor’s book, self catering cottage in South Ceredigion in May
‘We marketed our holidays on the wildlife to be seen in the area, mainly focusing on the Badgers, which are a real treat for holiday makers to see, and keep coming back for, which they did … Every person visiting makes an enormous contribution to the local community which I believe will be lost over the future years. People are already cancelling their holidays and others have expressed that they will be going elsewhere if there is going to be Badger killing in the area.’ Smallholder with livestock and holiday lets
‘…Wales has had many happy memories for me. I WILL NOT BE GOING TO WALES AGAIN for holiday day trip etc if this stupid cull carries on. Are we not above this? There are other ways and means of controlling TB in cattle; I for one would be willing to help towards the cost of vaccines for the badgers. Please see sense and listen to the majority of people.’ Former visitor to Wales
‘…I am greatly concerned about not only about the science behind the cull but also the negative impact that it will have on tourism. I, like so many of us, remember the “funeral pyres” of cattle in the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak and the continental visitors who cancelled in their hundreds.’ B & B proprietor in Fishguard
‘I would just like to express my concerns and support for the fight against the proposed badger cull in Pembrokeshire. From the information available to me I can only come to the conclusion that a cull would be of little value in the control of bovine TB… Furthermore, badgers and other wildlife are a tourist attraction for many, as a large proportion of the people who visit Pembrokeshire are interested in nature and wildlife and could be put off a visit by such a campaign.’ Former B & B proprietor in Moylegrove
‘I was researching a coasteering Team Building holiday for 120 people when I came across the PAC website. What a shock to discover that an apparently civilised society should be planning to destroy thousands of protected wild animals. This is 2010 for God’s sake! Coming to Pembrokeshire? NO WAY! We are off to the West Country.’ Holiday Organiser
‘We have just returned from a half term holiday in Pembrokeshire. A lovely time was only spoiled by being told about a Badger cull which was being planned this summer. I want you to know that we are disgusted by the thought of a cull and will not be coming back to Wales any time soon.’ Former visitor to Wales – email sent to WAG and copied to PAC
‘Just a short email to say that my wife and I + friends visit Wales at least once each year. If you go ahead with the cull we will not return but holiday elsewhere.’ Former visitor to Wales – email sent to WAG and copied to PAC
‘Until such time as this ridiculous badger cull is stopped we will not be coming to Wales for any more holidays. I am a lecturer at a college with 2,000 staff and will be circulating this information to all of them so expect some reaction from them’ Former visitor
‘We write to you as our elected Assembly Member, to ask what you are doing about compensating the Tourist Industry of West Wales for this proposed cull you are pursuing. We are landowners and Holiday Cottage owners, in the proposed cull area, and our bookings are considerably down this year, along with many other holiday cottage owners we know. Some of our usual returnees have told us they are not coming back because of the proposed Cull. As you are proposing to continue this cull for FIVE years, we are going to be losing a great deal of business. Why were we not asked beforehand? Our livelihood is at stake from this cull. The farmers are compensated by law, why are we not compensated for the Government’s actions too ? Why did the Assembly not canvas everybody first, before taking this unilateral, drastic action? We hope you are aware that feelings are running VERY HIGH in this area. There are other routes that you could take, such as vaccination. This is available now, why is it not being considered.’ Holiday Cottage owners letter to local AM
‘I have several e-mails showing what customers think and details of cancellations etc. Four customers are happy to be contacted directly to substantiate my claims. I understand that one regular guest has written to Her Majesty the Queen on the matter and has already received a reply. I don’t know whether this will be of any help but it certainly shows how strong the anti-cull feeling is.’ Owner of holiday apartments – who advertises badger and wildlife watching as a key feature of staying with them – and had a 70% reduction in bookings, largely it seems as a result of the cull.