NORTH Wales is a £2 billion “jewel in the crown” of the visitor economy of Great Britain, according to Wales’s tourism supremo.

In his role as Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism for the Welsh Government, Ken Skates AM, has been invited to address the next meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals (WBP) at the Ramada Hotel in the town on Friday May 15.

WBP is a group of professional firms of solicitors and accountants who collaborate on a non-competitive basis to promote the development of businesses, skills and employment opportunities for professional people.

The topic for discussion at the meeting will be Tourism, the path to prosperity for North East Wales.

Mr Skates, who is Assembly Member for Clwyd South, has been invited along with his lead government official, Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive Officer for Tourism and Marketing for Wales, to give the keynote addresses.

Mr Skates said his own powerful message will be that tourism plays a crucial and growing part in the economy of North Wales and the country as a whole and, thanks to on-going initiatives by the Welsh Government, there were even more exciting times ahead in the sector.

He said: “Tourism already contributes around £2 billion a year to the North Wales economy and supports something like 40,000 jobs.

“Across Wales, the industry accounts for the best part of 15 per cent of the entire workforce and in the north of the country this proportion is actually a little higher than that.

“It’s also a fact that the north captures a quarter of all visitors to Wales, so it’s very clearly punching well above its weight.

“I recently announced that 2016 has been designated in Wales as the Year of Adventure, which ties in perfectly with the key attractions of North Wales, such as mountains of Snowdonia and the Clwydian Range, some world-class attractions such as Zip World Velocity at Bethesda and the forthcoming Surf Snowdonia and also some of the coastal stretches of North Wales which are pretty unparalleled in terms of their scenery and landscapes.

“So there’s potential for tourism in North Wales to grow even further, and I am really pleased to be able to discuss this with members of Wrexham Business Professionals.”

Mr Skates added: “Tourism in North Wales is amongst the very best in the UK and the region as a whole is a jewel in the crown of the visitor economy of Great Britain.

“The figures show that employment in the tourism sector is increasing and we in the Welsh Government have been able to drive up interest in the sector, for example with the heritage tourism project in Caernarfon which has created more than 80 jobs and has helped introduce many hundreds of people to heritage tourism through work experience and involvement in the project.

“At the Wrexham Business Professionals meeting I’ll be talking about the value of  tourism to the country and the support the Welsh Government has been able to offer the sector.

“After the Year of Adventure next year, 2017 is the Year of Legends, which is all about Wales’s sporting and historic legends and those in art and music.

“Then 2018 will be the Year of the Sea when we will be celebrating the Wales Coastal Path, marine tourism and water-based activities.

“There’s plenty on the horizon and it’s an incredibly exciting sector to be involved in at the moment in Wales.”

Also addressing the Wrexham Business Professionals on the same theme will be Manon Antoniazzi, Chief Executive Officer for Tourism and Marketing for Wales.

Prior to her current job she worked in the private sector as a specialist in leadership development and was a member of the household of the Prince of Wales, where she served as a senior Private Secretary from 2004-2012.

Mrs Antoniazzi has worked in public affairs and governance at the BBC, as Secretary of BBC Wales and subsequently Head of Public Policy, Nations and Regions.

She has also served as Director of Communications at the National Assembly for Wales and Head of Press and Public Relations at S4C.

A former Chairman of The Prince’s Trust Cymru and Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company, she has served on the advisory boards of the Philharmonia Orchestra and Welsh National Opera.

She is currently a Non-Executive Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and holds a doctorate in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge.

Peter Butler, of GHP Legal, a founder member of Wrexham Business Professionals, said: “We are delighted we have been able to attract two such influential people to come and talk about the value of tourism to North Wales.

“The visitor economy is vitally important to North Wales with 30,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs.

“A quarter of the UK’s population live within two hours of North Wales – and we’re also within striking distance for people from the South East of England as well as overseas visitors so the potential future growth is huge.”