Visiting Dublin last week First Minister Carwyn Jones launched a new campaign with Visit Wales, the Welsh Government’s tourism arm, to boost visitor numbers from Ireland by at least 10% over the next five years.
Speaking during the week when Wales play Ireland in the Six Nations, Mr Skates said investment in port facilities in Holyhead could help bring in additional ferry-based tourism through North West Wales and Liverpool.
He also said airport access from Manchester and Birmingham was vital to increasing the share of visitors and holidaymakers who come to North East Wales.
He said: “I’m fully supportive of the Welsh Government’s aim to increase the numbers of Irish visitors to Wales by 10% over the next few years. North Wales relies heavily on tourism so I’m keen to ensure the campaign focuses on attracting visitors from the emerald isle to destinations right across the region.
“North Wales is potentially very accessible from Ireland, but we need to see a big focus in improving ferry port capacity in areas like Holyhead. We need to see a coherent strategy to invest in turnaround facilities and moorings at our ports and develop a stronger partnership when visitors come via the port in Liverpool.
“New partnerships with Stena and Irish Ferries need to be constructed with highly targeted marketing initiatives about what our region has to offer visitors from Ireland, one of North Wales’ most important international markets.
“We also need to exploit longer haul cruise markets. A recent Assembly report we did highlighted that cruise tourism is the highest growth sector in the developed world, growing at an average rate of 8% over the last 40 years.
“Airport access to North East Wales is another crucial issue. Daily flights from Ireland to Manchester and Birmingham mean North Wales is already within easy reach by plane but this needs to be co-ordinated with marketing and promotions to attract short-stay visitors and longer-stay holidaymakers.”
In 2011, a total of 148,000 visits to Wales from Ireland were recorded, with a total expenditure value of £33 million. According to the International Passenger Survey, the average length of trip lasted 4.1 days, with Ireland accounting for around 17% of all international visits to Wales.
Mr Skates added: “Many visitors from Ireland will come to South Wales for the rugby this week, but we need to show them there is another side to our great country.
“From Snowdonia National Park to the stunning Clwydian Range to the magnificent views on the coastal path, North Wales is a region waiting to be discovered by Irish visitors.
“What we need now is a planned programme of infrastructure investment and targeted marketing to help sell the region to Irish and international visitors on a global stage.”