PEMBROKESHIRE County Council should “absolutely not” scrap its tourism department and should continue to support the county’s largest industry, councillors said.

There were 2.3million visitors in 2015 staying an average of 5.3 nights and 1.98million day visitors with an annual spend of around £585million.

The statement that spending had remained static for ten years was challenged by Gerwyn Evans from the Welsh Government who told the committee there had been national growth, from which Pembrokeshire would also have benefited.

Cllr Simon Hancock said at the partnership overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (January 10) that there should not be a move away from tourism.

“On the contrary, we should, as a county council rededicate ourselves to the tourism industry in Pembrokeshire.

“We are suffering from stagnation and other areas are stealing a lead on our destination.

“We must rededicate ourselves and do all we can to support the tourism industry in Pembrokeshire and any notion of ceasing the service is out the window,” he added.

The committee had been tasked with examining the current management plan for tourism as it reaches the end of its allotted five year period.

Also under the spotlight was the axing of the council tourism department – currently made up of just two officers with some director support and a budget of £24,000 – saving around £132,000 a year as part of the authority's transformation programme.

However, it would risk losing around £1million of press coverage a year generated by the team, whose manager has not been replaced following retirement in November, as well as sending a “negative message” to potential funders such as Visit Wales.

A report to committee added that the team has helped business access millions of pounds of Welsh Government, EU and other grant funding.

A peer review found that council should be a “major player” in relation to tourism but recognised financial pressures and the existence of alternative development agents available.

The committee backed a proposal by chairman Cllr David Bryan that it would like the council to continue the Destination Pembrokeshire Partnership, be involved and “give it the utmost support.”

Progress will be reviewed in six months time.

Representatives of the partners involved – Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority (PCNPA), PLANED, Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire Tourism – attended the meeting.

Alternative models were being looked at, Pembrokeshire Tourism chairman Jane Rees-Baynes told members, and this included greater contribution from the trade.

“We need to take the brave leap and work collectively within the trade and partnership to grow Pembrokeshire to the world renowned tourist destination we know it to be,” she added.

James Parkin, PCNPA’s director of countryside, community and visitor services, added that there was a need to work “collectively” but recognising the difficulty in “competing with the best whilst resources are diminishing.”

He also highlighted the “backbone” of tourism were small or medium businesses and said it was “tough out there.”