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Last Updated: Monday, 3 December 2007, 17:51 GMT
Town to improve 22p tourist spend
Blaenau Ffestiniog town centre
The regeneration plans hope to provide more for tourists and locals
A town where visitors spend just 22p a head, is hoping a lottery grant will help transform its fortunes and put it on the tourism map.

Blaenau Ffestiniog has suffered from the demise of the quarry industry.

But a 25,000 Big Lottery Fund award will help pay for refurbishing the Market Hall, which it is hoped will be the focus of a tourism strategy.

There are also hopes for developing mountain biking, fishing and climbing in the area of the Gwynedd town.

It is hoped the scheme, involving regeneration group Blaenau Ymlaen (Blaenau Forward), will also help restore enthusiasm and "pride" among locals.

The currently boarded-up Market Hall would be central to the regeneration, providing facilities for meetings and exhibitions.

He asked me how long I'd lived here and when I answered: 'All my life' he said: 'Haven't you tried to escape?'
Val Jones, cafe owner

Spokesman Bob Cole said: "Blaenau Ffestiniog has got to look forward to a time when we can no longer depend on jobs in quarrying.

"We need to emphasise tourism and build up a new enthusiasm and pride in the town."

Mr Cole added: "The average visitor to Betws-y-coed spends 18 but in Blaenau it is just 22p.

"We need to change this."

According to members of the local business community, visitors have divided opinions on Blaenau as a tourist destination.

Blaenau Ffestiniog market hall and artist impression
The boarded up market hall now - and below, how it should look

Val Jones, 58, said she had been taken aback by a comment from a visitor to her town centre cafe.

"He asked me how long I'd lived here and when I answered: 'All my life' he said: 'Haven't you tried to escape?'

"Some visitors arrive here and just see the slate and the greyness of them, but then on a day with blue sky they love it."

Gill Vescio, 55, runs a coffee shop and B&B business and is a member of the Blaenau Ymlaen committee and the Chamber of Commerce.

Kamil Sued and family
Kamil Sued said his family enjoyed the area's history and views

She said comments ranged from people who liked the view to others who thought there were not enough places to eat during the evening.

"This new development hopefully will have something for everyone in the community," she added.

"I've been here a little over a year and the impression I get is that there has been talk of these plans for a long time, but it is finally coming together.

"People really want it to work and feel really positive. There is a need to keep visitors here."

Resident Claire Jones, 25, said her perspective on the town had changed since she had lived away for a time.

"I don't know if I'll stay in Blaenau long-term," she added.

"But after saying that I enjoy the feeling of closeness in the community here."

On the first Monday in December, BBC News Online did not expect to see many tourists on the streets of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

But a couple from Manchester, who were staying in Bangor, had visited a nearby tourist attraction.

Kamil Sued, 26, said limited daylight was affecting them more than the lack of things to do, but added: "We love the history of the area and all the nice views."

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