The news that nearly £16m has been awarded to boost outdoor and adventure activities across Wales is good news - this is an important step towards growing job and business opportunities in outdoor activities and will have the knock on effect of boosting existing local businesses. The funding, which is mostly from European funding and local councils, aims to to create four tourism centres, with more than £6m will be spent in the North, improving cycling facilities and activities capitalising upon our area's of outstanding natural beauty.
When I lived and worked in London I was acutely aware that my South African, Kiwi and Australian friends would periodically disappear on organised trips to Scotland and Ireland, I became aware that Wales barely seemed to feature on their radar, so low at the time was our profile, something I endeavoured to put right.
Since moving back to Wales, and making reasonably periodic forays into our country's more rugged areas and endeavouring not to fall of mountains in the process I have become actually are that while there have been some significant improvements in this sector of tourism - there is significant room for improvement. Yet even now, by way of comparison with similar areas of Ireland and Scotland, it is clear that we are still missing out on some real opportunities and our outdoor tourism sector is still way underdeveloped.
Hopefully these new centres will provide world class facilities in a wide range of outdoor tourism activities and will be able to showcase what Wales has to offer to visitors as a sustainable tourism destination. The new funding project aims to break ground in the South, with a world-leading commercial bike park in the Heads of the Valley area at Gethin Woods in Merthyr Tydfil, the creation of a 'One Historic Garden' centre of excellence, and the creation of the "best all-round, purpose-built trail centre in the UK" at Afan Forest Park in Neath Port Talbot. These are all small, but potentially economically significant steps in the right direction to help to grow the outdoor adventure tourism sector.
There is a real need to boost tourism by promoting Wales as a world class outdoor activities destination - after all we are blessed with some spectacularly rugged areas with Snowdonia, the Cambrian Mountains and the Brecon Beacons. We need to grow the outdoor sector of adventure tourism, there are real job opportunities, and opportunities to grow sustainable local businesses which will benefit the local economy and the local communities across Wales.
While Abergavenny, more locally, rightly makes much of its position as a gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park there is plenty of potential to grow the out door adventure tourism sector, something that could benefit local businesses and also give our farmers an opportunity to help diversify their business with a growth in the development of bunkhouses and on farm accommodation.