Returning Home - what does a trip to Wales really mean to the diaspora?
“I would like to go back to Wales. I'm obsessed with my childhood and at least three times a week dream I am back there.” - Anthony Hopkins
Whilst the Coronavirus pandemic has recently all but halted tourism, particularly of an international nature, as vaccines hopefully begin to move the world back towards normality, it is expected that tourism will bounce-back quicky. After over a year of Netflix, walking around the local park and far, far too many Zoom calls, who hasn’t daydreamed of a beach, mountain or city far from home? I certainly have. And for Wales, tourism is particularly important, as its already a £5 billion industry with huge potential for further growth.
Wales has three National Parks and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an award-winning 1,400 km Wales Coast Path, as well as stunning mountains, rivers and lakes. There the distinctive culture, language, sporting venues, three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and as every school child in Wales knows - more castles per square km than anywhere else in Europe.
Those of us fortunate enough to be from Wales know all too well what it offers visitors, but now a new research report using a sample of 12,000 people from digital anthropologists sapient.d has dug deep into the reasons for the North American diaspora travelling to Wales for tourism. And the results are quite surprising!
"Wales has an incredible amount to offer tourists. Stunning landscapes, seascapes and our fascinating heritage are amongst the most attractive in the UK - the world even."
The largest answer, with a share of 47% stated Heritage and Ancestry as the primary reason for their visit. This would be largely driven by those with direct links to the ‘old country’ and the desire to visit family, friends and old haunts. But there’s also been a rise in genealogy, so a growing reason for those without direct current links to Wales to visit and trace their roots. This is something that has been a big driver in tourism in Ireland for many years, with many companies offering bespoke trips directly related to locations within your family tree and occasionally connecting with distant cousins! These organisations do exist in Wales, but are far smaller in number.
For 33% of visitors its Celtic Culture from druidism to literature and various Celtic festival that was primary reason for their visit to Wales. As we’ve seen in other parts of this report druids prove fascinating for large sections of the North American and is perhaps a little underserved in the messaging that Wales shared with the world. The report writers noted that many people call Wales the “New Zealand of the North” with JRR Tolkein and similar fantasy books and films being referenced.
"The warmth of the Welsh welcome, the rich history and mysticism that surrounds it, and unique atmospheric nature of the country is a major draw for all visitors, especially our ancestral diaspora."
Adventure and Eco Travel was the primary reason that 12% said they wanted to visit Wales for cycling, hiking, trail running and other eco-related adventure travel. This grouping also included a growing category of those seeking ‘wellness travel’, which covers the likes of yoga retreats, nature therapy, cookery other calming experiences. Welsh even has a proverb for this, "Dod yn ôl at fy nghoed", which means literally to ‘return to my trees’ - to relax unwind and to calm your mind.
The final reason, with 8% is the Eisteddfod, as the world (at least pre-Covid) has increasingly embraced festivals, the annual Welsh celebrations of arts and culture is the highlight of many a trip with some respondents mentioning alongside the likes of Burning Man, the huge festival that takes place in the Nevada desert.
"There’s also a Celtic Revival going on around the world. People like being and being seen as Celtic. They are seen a bit of an Underdog!"
Giles Crouch Chief Information Officer of sapient.d who wrote this report; “There’s lots we can draw out of these numbers, and I think the eco-travel aspect is particularly interesting. Lots of Welsh photographers are very popular on Instagram, and these images of the beauty of Wales are seen all over the world. There’s also a Celtic Revival going on around the world. People like being and being seen as Celtic. They are seen a bit of an Underdog!”
A big part of the GlobalWelsh, the global community established in 2015, for Welsh people and friends of Wales is tourism, so its founder Walter May, shares some of his insights into what people want when they come to Wales; “Wales has an incredible amount to offer tourists. Stunning landscapes, seascapes and our fascinating heritage are amongst the most attractive in the UK - the world even.
'What's more, the warmth of the Welsh welcome, the rich history and mysticism that surrounds it, and unique atmospheric nature of the country is a major draw for all visitors, especially our ancestral diaspora. While we are part of the UK, once you cross the border from England into Wales the difference is obvious and contrasting.”
What’s particularly interesting when looking at these reasons for tourist trips, is that the nature and size of Wales means than in a seven-day trip you could easily squeeze in all these things and more! How about that for a trip? See you there!
This is the fifth and final article in our series showcasing the key findings of the Digital Diaspora report. Read more.
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