WELSHtourism may receive a £260m cash boost over the next six years after the European Union gave west Wales and the valleys new economic status.
The Wales Tourist Board is currently allocated £15m funds from the UK Government a year. Of this, £3m is spent on tourism grants and generating further funding and £5.5m on marketing the country. The remaining is spent on WTB running costs. Wales also receives £1m from Europe.
The country has received Objective One status from the EU which means economic regeneration is needed. If the Welsh economy receives all the grants it is entitled to under the new status and matches the grants through fundraising, £2.6bn would be available to spend on Wales' economy. WTB said 10% of that, £260m, would be spent on tourism.
A spokesman for WTB said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us. The next round of status deciding won't happen until 2006 by which time countries that are poorer than Wales will have joined the EU so we probably won't get this status, which allows potential for so many grants, again."
He added thatIreland had received Objective One status in the past and had turned its tourism industry into a huge success story.
The Welsh Assembly is expected to present the EU with a 10-year investment plan in the autumn detailing how it will spend the money.
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