A prominent figure in the Mid Wales tourism industry is celebrating her 24th anniversary of joining MWT Cymru in style, having been awarded an MBE in the King’s official birthday honours list.

Val Hawkins, chief executive of MWT Cymru (Mid Wales Tourism), is recognised for her service to tourism and the economy of Wales. 

MWT Cymru, which has a team of four full and part-time staff, is an independent tourism organisation representing 600 tourism and hospitality member businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.

“I am surprised but delighted to have been recognised with an MBE,” she said. “I am proud of the work I have done as an officer of MWT Cymru over the past 24 years, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic when a lot of good people in the industry pulled together to try to mitigate the impact on tourism businesses through that extremely challenging time.

“I must thank the MWT directors and staff I have worked with over the years and our member businesses and community groups for their support. I am part of a business community and, for a rural region, we collectively punch way above our weight.

“Our strength lies in being a small but flexible and agile team which allows us to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.”

Val, who lives in Newtown, was born in Glasgow and worked in the hotel sector in Scotland, including the famous Gleneagles Hotel, before becoming Rowntree Mackintosh’s first female sales representative in Scotland.

The sales role led her to England’s South Coast where she met her husband, Mike Hawkins. The couple moved to their current Newtown home on Christmas Eve 1979 when Mike’s parents retired from the farm.

Whilst raising their three daughters, Val ran a farm guest house at their home for 10 years before she joined Mid Wales Tourism as membership manager in June, 1999.

Working with a range of partners, she secured European funding for a successful training project for Powys tourism businesses and communities and was promoted to general manager in 2005-‘06, a job title that developed to chief executive.

During her time at Mid Wales Tourism, now known as MWT Cymru, Val and her team have helped to guide the organisation and its member businesses through a series of major challenges.

“Shortly after joining MWT, the Foot and Mouth crisis hit our sector and Welsh Government re-structuring in 2001 was particularly challenging at a time when huge digital advances were revolutionising tourism marketing,” explained Val. “More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic and the current cost of living crisis have been extremely challenging for our businesses.”

Val helped to develop and implement pioneering digital technology, with Mid Wales becoming one of the first UK regions to have a destination management system and launched the first Visit Mid Wales regional website in 2001, which expanded to cover the whole of Wales.

Widely respected across the tourism industry, MWT Cymru has built strong relationships with Visit Wales, Visit Britain and trade organisations across Wales.

“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster, with a new challenge around every corner,” added Val. “We are constantly having to think three years ahead, guided by the Welsh Government’s policies.

“As an organisation at the interface of the public and private sector, it’s often an uncomfortable place to sit and requires soft diplomacy and a lot of hard work behind the scenes, which is more my style.

“I started with Mid Wales Tourism at the time of the digital revolution which was a big change for society as a whole. Due to my passion for technology, we have managed to stay ahead of the curve and create new opportunities for our members.

“I am proud that we bring together businesses, local communities and national organisations here in Mid Wales which has helped to reinforce the position and reputation of MWT Cymru.”