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Facebook and Twitter ‘key to Flintshire tourism success’

Flintshire’s tourism industry has stood up well to the recession, and there is a raft of plans in the pipeline to help the county continue to prosper. ELEANOR BARLOW reports

WEBSITES like Facebook and Twitter hold the key to Flintshire’s success as a holiday destination, according to the chairman of the county’s tourism association.

John Les Tomos, landlord of the Royal Oak in Hendre, is chairman of Flintshire Tourism Association and Mold Food Festival.

The association has almost 100 member businesses, and Mr Tomos said all of them should ensure they have an online presence.

“We have held courses for members to teach them about social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Bebo,” he told the Chronicle.

“If you get a recommendation on a site like Twitter it carries a lot more weight than anything you publish on your own website.”

Mr Tomos said tourism was ‘vital’ to the county’s economy. In 2008/09 about £174m was spent in Flintshire as a result of it.

“Tourism is not just big hotels, it’s the tonnes and tonnes of small B&Bs in the county and local pubs, shops and post offices,” he said.

The association is also encouraging businesses in the area to join forces to maximise their potential.

“We want B&Bs to use marmalade, jam and cheese which is made in the area,” said Mr Tomos.

“People want to have the experience of Wales in Wales, and businesses need to work together to provide that.”

While the recession has seen most industries suffer, Mr Tomos said he thinks the economic slump has helped tourism in North Wales, because less people have been holidaying abroad.

“Conversely, the recession has helped tourism,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to build on that and market Flintshire as a tourist destination more aggressively.”

Mr Tomos and colleagues have been to shows in Manchester and across Britain to promote the region.

He said: “We are only 40 minutes away from Manchester and two hours from Birmingham.

“In that two-hour journey there are a potential 15 million visitors, and if we can attract just 10% of those we’ll have 1.5 million extra visitors a year.”

But Mr Tomos said the tourism industry had to be prepared for the end of the recession, when people would start to spend holidays abroad again.

He said: “Getting better broadband has been a major issue for some businesses.

“One hotel in Flintshire lost a £75,000 contract because their broadband facilities weren’t good enough.

“We are now getting into FibreSpeed broadband and people can get better deals so businesses here can compete with places in Chester to provide conference facilities.

“Once the recession ends corporate contracts will hopefully be able to keep the industry going.”

Mr Tomos said the main competition for the county was nearby areas such as Conwy, Anglesey and Snowdonia.

And he said the association had been working hard to increase tourist signs along the A55.

Mr Tomos is also a director of rural regeneration agency Cadwyn Clwyd, which has invested millions of pounds in several projects in Flintshire.

He added: “There is £5m of funding from Cadwyn Clwyd which will be spent in Flintshire from now until 2013.

“It has done some absolutely brilliant work, particularly with environmentally friendly projects and creating community facilities.”