The Borders Party would like to see a revitalised tourism industry in the Scottish Borders. Proposals include the realignment of funding for VisitScotland and the establishment of a local tourist organisation funded by Scottish Borders Council but driven by local tourist businesses.
Why is this so important? According to Scottish Borders Council, “Tourism related employment accounts for around 8% of the workforce in the Scottish Borders. Tourism now employs more people in the Borders than either agriculture, forestry and fishing, or construction.” Tourism is worth millions of pounds to the region’s economy and must be given greater emphasis.
Our Ideas Include
- Revising the role of VisitScotland.
- Creating a new tourist organisation, based in the Borders, playing to the real strengths of the region.
- Strengthening genealogy based tourism.
- International marketing of ‘Scott’s Land’, a cluster of attractions based on Abbotsford and Sir Walter Scott.
- Promoting a Reiver’s Trail that focuses on our fascinating, turbulent and unique past.
- Re-branding and introducing an exciting new image. The current logo and ‘corporate identity’ are dull and boring.
- Abolishing the ‘Leading Short Break Destination’ Strategy. It says nothing.
- Placing a much stronger emphasis on recreation.
- Promoting the Borders as a wedding destination.
- Promoting the Borders as a film location.
A Longer Break
For much too long the Borders have been promoted as a Scotland’s leading short-break destination. Tourism leaders have bemoaned the fact that the Borders lacks a world class visitor attraction yet we have unrivalled assets in the unspoiled scenery, the peace and the quiet and the availability of a huge range of outdoor recreational activities – many of which come free. In a world of deadlines, traffic congestion, increased city living, a lack of space and pressure, pressure, pressure, the Scottish Borders is the perfect holiday antidote.
A Revised VisitScotland
The Borders Party believes VisitScotland, the former Scottish Tourist Board, is too focused on Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands. The Borders is promoted as little more than a place to ‘pop down to’ if you’ve got the time. In America they have the ‘flyover states’ of the mid west. The Borders are becoming the ‘drive through counties’, while people are encouraged to spend more time further North. ‘Short break’ is absurd. There is more to visit, eat, do and enjoy here than in any other part of rural Scotland.
All the attractions and infrastructure we already have! It is a question of proper promotion.
Too often we hear that tourist businesses, and those who derive their living from tourism in the Borders, feel that VisitScotland is letting them down. As one lady B&B owner told us recently, “I wouldn’t recommend VisitScotland to anyone thinking of starting up a B&B. I have a lasting, unfavourable impression of working with them. They have a dictatorial attitude that stifles the potential, variety and colour of a visitor experience.”
The Borders Tourist Board was the first regional tourist board in Scotland, formed because the Borders are not like the rest of Scotland. Recognition years ago that there needed to be a different approach, that is just as valid today.
Statements on the Scottish Borders website, run by VisitScotland include: “The Scottish Borders are not just an area of outstanding beauty. A colourful and turbulent history has shaped Borders life over the centuries, instilling a local pride and passion in all who live here. There is a real sense of community and for visitors to our area we know it is important to offer a Genuine Borders Welcome and quality level of service.” Apart from the mistakes in their grammar, you are then instructed to ‘click here’ for ‘Directory Services’. This takes you to the VisitScotland web site and offers a picture of the Highlands and a list of every region in Scotland. What we need in the Borders is focus – focus on our region and what works for us. It’s all about thinking local, and acting local.
Tourism chiefs have, for too long, downplayed the Reivers. We’re told that they don’t want to highlight ‘our violent past’. Try telling that to Americans with names such as Armstrong, Nixon, Johnson and Graham. America, outside of the rest of Britain, ought to be our biggest source of tourist revenue. With this in mind The Borders Party proposes the setting up of a “Borders embassy” in North America to fully focus on promoting and selling our region. This need not be expensive. Perth already runs such a scheme.
Employment in the tourist industry in the Borders is the lowest in Scotland. The average number of nights stayed by overseas visitors is only half that of other areas.
The Borders Party has been assisted in its tourism strategy by Dr Robin Pellew, PhD, OBE, the former Chief Executive of the National Trust for Scotland who has extensive experience of reinvigorating visitor attractions. He was awarded the OBE in 2006 for his services to heritage and tourism.
Tell us what you think
The Borders Party is fully committed to taking the views of Borderers into account, so please contact us and let us have your thoughts on how we can best serve the Borders.