First of all I would like to thank you for this honorary fellowship. The Fellowship scheme, launched today, is an important way in which individuals in particular can develop their support for the Botanic Garden and its activities, and I am delighted to be asked to be its first member. I hope to be a jolly good honorary fellow!
We are gathered here at what is undoubtedly one of Wales’s great success stories. Despite inevitable initial difficulties, the National Botanic Garden of Wales has endured to become a central part of the Welsh cultural landscape and I hear you are now celebrating a 50 per cent increase in visitor numbers since this time last year – a marvellous achievement.
The purpose of British Tourism Week, for which today’s events mark the end, is to promote the plethora of visitor attractions we have here throughout the British Isles, and to remind ourselves of the tourism opportunities that are available on our doorstep. As Patron of this inaugural event, I visited the Tower of London at the beginning of the week, also one of the country’s great success stories and a testament to successful domestic tourism, as long as we remember that the surroundings of our great historic sites are equally important.
I know that organizations like VisitBritain and Visit Wales work around the clock to promote our beautiful landscapes and heritage assets and for their work we are most grateful. Promoting the UK’s potential for tourism goes beyond a simple appreciation of aesthetics, to an economic and social necessity. After all, it is Britain’s fifth biggest industry and here in Wales alone tourists spend £8 million a day on visits and the sector employs 10 per cent of the Principality’s workforce.
Yet while it is a significant contributor to the UK’s wealth, it is equally significant to the country’s well-being and this is where the promotion of sensitive environmental practice is integral to the industry’s future development. As I am sure you are all aware, there is huge potential for the British tourism industry to embrace the principles of sustainability over the next few years.
In doing soit is perhaps worth remembering that true sustainability should involve a reconnection with nature and the natural world, from which we have, in my opinion, become rather divorced. When talking of tourism I do pray that we can once again rediscover our place in the natural world; our need to act in harmony with it; our need to reconnect with where our food comes from – and I was delighted to meet the schoolchildren in the walled garden today; our increasing need for local identity within a globalised world;our need to reintegrate the arts and crafts inspired by the natural world into our surroundings and our need to create character and charm through man working with nature and not against her.
Surely these are the timeless principles of sustainability which can help to ensure that our precious landscape can be nurtured and enhanced through the subtle application of an organic living tradition that acknowledges that we are part of nature, not apart from it.
Perhaps this garden is in a unique position to help deliver and sustain this message.
Later today, I will be hosting a small summit on the Royal Train for delegates from Welsh tourism and the industry nationally. I hope this will provide an opportunity to discuss the lessons we have learned from this week and what more can be done to promote the industry in a sustainable manner.