Plans have been unveiled for a brand new tourism route created especially for the increasing number of Japanese visitors fuelling the tourism boom in North Wales.
The Roads of Castles in Wonderland initiative was revealed by Jim Jones, the managing director of North Wales Tourism, who said the region was now a big hit with visitors from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Mr Jones told a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the town’s Ramada Hotel there had been an 84 per cent increase in Japanese visitors in the past two years, with almost 2,400 of them between April and September of this year coming via travel agencies that have not previously had North Wales on their itineraries.
The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.
According to Mr Jones, North Wales Tourism has been working closely with the high-powered Japanese Association of Travel Agents (JATA).
Earlier this year he took a seven-strong on group from JATA on a whistle-stop tour of World Heritage sites and other attractions in North Wales.
Mr Jones “Japanese tourists used to by-pass North Wales but not anymore.
“We have worked hard to promote the region and as a result we have seen a sharp rise in the number of Japanese tourists visiting North Wales.
“JATA have now selected 20 of the most beautiful roads in Europe and we were thrilled they picked North Wales as one of those routes.
“They will now be promoting North Wales as The Road of Castles in Wonderland.
“The route starts in Newtown and comes up through, Chirk, Wrexham and Ruthin, before heading to Conwy and Llandudno and down the Conwy Valley to the Llyn Peninsula and looping to Caernarfon and Anglesey.
“We’re now aiming to target other Asian markets like China, Thailand and the Philippines because there’s so much potential there.
“Manchester Airport has Hainan from China coming in directly seven days a week and Cathy Pacific will be from the New Year hopefully be coming in from Hong Kong seven days a week.
“There is still a lot we need to do and we can’t yet sit on our laurels but there really is a lot to be positive about.
“North Wales has voted as the 4th best place in the world to visit by readers of Lonely Planet brings huge kudos.
“The sector already contributes more than £2.8 billion annually to the regional economy and employs upwards of 47,000 people.
“One of the main reasons for the dramatic rise in our fortunes as a tourism destination is that North Wales is at the epicentre of the growing adventure holidays market and is earning recognition as a world leader thanks to developments like Zip World and Surf Snowdonia.
“There are two other areas that have got ahead of the curve especially on the promotion of food and drink Anglesey and Wrexham. We have witnessed a 70 per cent increase in tourism in Wrexham over the last 10years which is amazing.
“That’s been helped by a forward thinking local authority and the launch of the innovative Wrexham Card.
“Add to that high profile events such as Olly Murs appearing at the Racecourse Ground and Wrexham is suddenly doing much better in terms of tourism.”
The other keynote speaker was Chris Nott OBE, the Prince of Wales’ Business Ambassador for Wales.
Mr Nott, a commercial lawyer and senior partner of Capital Law LLP, gave an inspiring talk on ethical entrepreneurship and responsible business.
He said: “My primary responsibility is to my 150 employees. In the end I’m responsible for the payment of 150 mortgages, it’s really that simple.
“If staff are happy and understand the ethos behind what you do then you have a far more productive and successful team.
“A successful business will build a sense of community and become a value-led organisation.
“What is really important is that as a business you measure output and not input.”
Gill Kreft, the chair of Wrexham Business Professionals, thanked both speakers, recognising their inspirational commitment to making North Wales a better place to live, work and do business.
She said: “Jim Jones is so passionate about our region and he’s put North Wales on the map, as never before. Chris Nott’s vision is also vitally important and his values are shared at the very heart of our ethos at Wrexham Business Professionals.
“Working responsibly is good for business and has got to be the way forward to generate sustainable wealth, health and wellbeing for North Wales.”