STEPS are being taken to limit the carbon footprint of tourism in Wales as the country braces for summer hordes of staycationers.
The Welsh Government has announced £26 million of funding to make tourism more sustainable and the countryside more resilient.
It follows a boom in the number of people choosing to holiday in the nation, and other parts of the UK, instead of going abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Plans include rolling out more charging points for electric vehicles, investing in biodiversity in Wales’ three national parks – which make up a quarter of the country’s land – and maintaining and improving walking trails.
Last summer, social media platforms and news outlets were awash with pictures of overcrowding in popular destinations such as Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), where there were daily queues to reach the summit.
Climate change minister Julie James said that along with policies to protect the environment, the government was also supporting improvements to transport and facilities, particularly around visitor hotspots.
Ms James said: “As more people are discovering the magic of the Welsh countryside, we must make sure it can deal with the pressures.
“Our vision is of a countryside where communities can continue to work and flourish, where visitors can enjoy whilst leaving only footprints behind, and where plants and wildlife can make a real comeback.
“Nature is providing us with the tools to tackle the climate and nature emergencies whilst still having the power to make us all feel better within ourselves when we connect to it – it’s only right we do what we can to look after it.”
She added: “Investment in access to the great outdoors is a flagship policy for the Welsh Government for the multiple benefits it provides.
“Beyond the economic opportunities of tourism, connecting with nature has been scientifically proven to improve both mental and physical health.
“Pioneering projects such as the Wales Coast Path enables walkers to trek its entire 1400km coastline whilst plans are well under way to create a national forest for Wales that stretches from the north to the south of the country.”
The Welsh Government continues to consult on the possibility of introducing a tourism tax, as is common in many countries in Europe.
However, a recent survey by the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions found many members were concerned such a policy would drive tourists away, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis.
The Welsh Conservatives said it would “cost jobs and hurt businesses”.
Meanwhile, local authorities will be able to set council tax premiums on second homes and long-term empty properties to 300 per cent from April 2023.
The criteria for self-catering accommodation being liable for business rates instead of council tax will also change at the same time, from 70 to 182 days.