An adventure tourism company that created Europe’s longest zip wire is pumping more than £121 million into North Wales’ economy.
Zip World is bringing thousands of new visitors to the region, and has created 218 jobs, new research by North Wales Tourism shows.
Run by former Royal Marine Sean Taylor with leisure and construction specialist Nick Moriarty, Zip World has three adventure sites across the region with more activities due to open next year as part of a £5.5 million investment.
Visitors heading to Zip World mostly spend up to £500 a head – with one in ten shelling out more than £1,000 – on accommodation, eating out, shopping and visiting other adventure attractions such as Surf Snowdonia and Greenwood Forest Park.
And almost three quarters of visitors stayed at least one night in North Wales, helping to boost occupancy rates for hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses and campsites.
The figures come as North Wales was named one of the best places in the world to visit, with the editor of acclaimed travel guide Lonely Planet praising the region as “a playground for hikers, mountain bikers and rock climbers.”
Overall, adventure sports are helping to reap a £2 billion bonanza for North Wales. The Welsh Government designated 2016 as the Year of Adventure and the sector already employs 40,000 people across North Wales – adding up to one in every seven jobs in the area.
More than 8,000 Zip World visitors took part in the research, answering questions about their stay in North Wales, what they spent and where.
North Wales Tourism managing director Jim Jones said: “I was expecting some pretty big figures, as I know just how many people mention Zip World when talking about the area, but when I saw the outcome of our research, I was staggered.
“The research shows that Zip World acts as a driver to tourism in our key market places – people come here, quite simply, because they want adventure and fun with their family and friends. They stay overnight or longer and they all spend money locally.
“In addition to bringing in £121 million, Zip World has also created 218 permanent jobs, with most of the staff living locally in Gwynedd – where it is a major employer – and Conwy
“We carried out the research because we wanted to understand the extent of Zip World’s impact on the economy of North Wales, and the importance of those economic benefits.
“The research also gives us a solid base to forecast trends into the future, which will be helpful to those looking to invest in North Wales – in tourism and hospitality, in housing and in the region’s infra-structure,” added Mr Jones, who represents more than 1,000 tourism businesses.
“We can lay claim to being the adventure capital of Europe when you look at fantastic developments like Zip World and Surf Snowdonia adding to the existing opportunities for adrenaline-fuelled adventure breaks right across the region.
“It’s bringing us kudos and recognition and, on the back of that, you’ve got other attraction providers starting to invest big sums of money into their infrastructure.
“We’ve got a growing range of accommodation that can cope with the demand for our world-class attractions.”
Since opening Zip World Velocity at Bethesda’s Penrhyn Quarry, in 2013, the company has brought in almost half a million visitors – with a quarter coming to North Wales for the first time.
It was the brainchild of former Royal Marine Commando Sean Taylor, who has also worked in the security industry, and Nick Moriarty, a specialist in the construction and leisure industry for over 25 years.
Zip World’s Velocity, in a former quarry, is the fastest zip line in the world and the longest in Europe, tempting stars such as Ant and Dec and Wales rugby team to visit, as well as pensioners and charity fund-raisers.
There are now 11 different attractions across three sites – as well as Bethesda there is Zip World Titan, the largest zip zone in Europe, plus Bounce Below, the first subterranean playground of its kind, and Zip World Caverns at Llechwedd Slate Caverns, near Blaenau Ffestiniog.
In addition, Zip World Fforest near Llanrwst offers Treetop Nets, Plummet – the world’s highest powerfan tree parachute simulator – Skyride, Europe’s highest 5 seater giant swing, the Junior Tree Trail and the Fforest Caffi.
Zip World is set to now open a new attraction at the Celtic Manor in South Wales next Easter, along with a £3m HQ and cafe at Bethesda and an Alpine Coaster at the Zip World Fforest site in the Conwy Valley.
Sean said: “We approached North Wales Tourism to carry out the research because we wanted to quantify exactly what we have brought to the economy of North Wales.
“The figures are pretty amazing – and a lot more than we anticipated. To be honest, though, they don’t tell the whole story. For example, it focused on information from people who took part in one of our rides – but our visitors often bring other people with them, who don’t take part.
“So a charity group may bring 50 riders but an extra 75 people to support, watch and cheer them on. All these people spend money locally as well.
“The research will allow us to plan for the future. Next Easter we are opening a new Alpine Coaster, the first of its type in the UK. It is a gravity driven ride with toboggan cars on elevated tracks running through the existing trees at Zip World Fforest.
“The course will be over one kilometre long and will give families and adventure seekers the ultimate thrill, descending through the trees overlooking the beautiful Conwy Valley.
“Plus there will be a new visitor centre and cafe at Bethesda, for up to 300 people, so they can look out over the lake, and with a children’s play area.
“This gives people a reason to come back time and again – new attractions and activities to enjoy as a family.
“What is striking is the diverse range of people we attract. It’s not stereotypical adrenalin junkies but families, birthday parties, religious groups. People recognise that we, in North Wales, offer something for everyone.
“Zip World has created plenty of local jobs – up to 250 in summer when we are at our busiest. We pay above the living wage and, coming from North Wales myself, I feel it’s very important to employ local people – they know and love the area and they are our ambassadors.
“The Welsh Government’s Year of Adventure has really paid off for us, and we will be building on that with the Year of Legends in 2017.
“The Welsh Government, and Economic and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates, have been very supportive – although we have received public funding we have more than paid it back, though the jobs we’ve created, rates and taxes.”
Sean also paid tribute to North Wales Tourism for helping to promote the region to visitors.
He added: “Jim Jones is far ahead of many other tourist leaders elsewhere. He has the foresight to understand how the region needs on how to promote itself, which is great news for private tourist attractions such as Zip World and for those living and working in this area.”
The research shows that, of those who took part in the research,
- most came from north west England and the Midlands, followed by the south east and London – though 11 per cent were from North Wales
- more than a third headed to Zip World after hearing about it from a friend or relative
- The main reason 60 percent came to North Wales was to visit a Zip World attraction
- a quarter had never visited the region before
- 74 per cent stayed at least one night, with some staying more than week
- and, on average, they spent from £251-£500 – far higher than the UK average of £161.
In addition the research showed that 30 per cent of Zip World’s staff had no previous full-time job – as they were students, volunteers or unemployed – while a further 14 per cent went from part-time to full-time.