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Borders task force created to boost tourism

Other posts by  |  Patrick Norris on Google+ |  October 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

One handed, rodeo style, a mountain biker flies through the air at Glentress © Graham Riddell/ourscottishborders.com

A task force has been established to help the tourism industry in The Scottish Borders grow.

According to the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership, more than 5,000 people work in tourism in the area, which has been experiencing a downward trend more recently.

The task force has been created in light of the news that tourism days spent in the region fell by 4.5% in 2010 compared to the previous year.

The new group will work towards attracting more active people under the age of 50 to the area. It will also try to shift the regions image as a quiet and laid-back destination, says Catherine Maxwell Stuart, the lady laird of Traquair and chair of the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership (SBTP).

Hotel and bed-and-breakfast occupancy reflected a further decline with levels well below the UK average.

She says the general trend for businesses in The Scottish Borders is mixed, with some doing well and others struggling. The poor weather has been a factor, but it does not fully explain the decline in day visits.

Tourism revenue generated in The Borders in 2010 was about £169m. This was almost 3% less than 2009.

The breakdown of the revenue indicates £31m came from accommodation, £31m from food and drink, £21m from shopping and recreation, £24m from transport, £19m on VAT and £43m from the 5,000 local jobs in tourism-related businesses, 62% of which are within the accommodation and food-and-drink sectors.

But despite the large portion of revenue coming from accommodation, hotel occupancy was 47%, compared to the UK average of 63%.  Bed and breakfats in the Boarders had a 30% occupancy rate, compared to 46% nationally.

Catherine Maxwell Stuart said the new team – which has been properly constituted within the SBTB – will first create a business-to-business database so that serviced sector providers will know, for example, when major events are happening and consider offering flexible rates.

“There is no shortage of attractions and events, more recently boosted by facilities for mountain biking and adventure sports, so it’s really all about getting the message out there and shedding the image of the region as a sedate destination favoured only by the over 50s,” she explained.

“It’s more important than ever that tourism businesses have a voice and work collectively to ensure we continue to have a thriving tourism industry.

“We recognised that the organisers of major events and activities, which have the potential to drive up visitor numbers, must come on board, as well as the smallest accommodation providers.”

Along with Ms Maxwell Stuart, the task force will include SBTB vice-chair Barbara Elborn of the Newcastleton Business Partnership, Jo Sutherland of the Lodge, Carfraemill, representing the food and drink sector, Richard Sweetnam, Scottish Borders Council’s economic development manager, and Sandy Hellowell, regional director of VisitScotland.

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