Borders tourism potential should be highlighted at national level

THE Berwickshire coast, the Tweed Valley and the Borders road and rail networks should all be highlighted in the new Scotland-wide tourism plan.

Tourism brings in an estimated £11 billion a year into the Scottish economy, and accounts for 10 per cent of the the country’s jobs, prompting the development of a new national tourism development plan.

Borders tourism is a key sector of the local economy, bringing in £170 million a year and supporting 5000 jobs, which is why Scottish Borders Council is critical of the fact that it is only at this stage, as the draft plan is being tweaked, that VisitScotland is now asking for their views.

As it currently stands the potential for tourism in the Borders is covered in the plan by vague expressions such as “proposals to improve the area’s visitor experience and provide further attractions”, and there is also a suggestion of “the provision of a leisure proposal at the cross border points on the A1”.

Now that Scottish Borders Council has been asked for their views on the National Tourism Development Plan the council’s head of economic development is pressing councillors, when they meet today, Thursday, to ensure that all the region’s tourism opportunities are covered within the Borders part of the plan.

Suggestions for additions to the Scottish Borders tourism plan include: opportunities to grow diving and coastal tourism activity in Eyemouth and the Berwickshire coastal area; maximising the tourism benefit of long distance footpaths and ‘Scotland’s Great Trails’; upgrading key routes such as the A1, A68, and A7 trunk roads, improving signage and developing tourism facilities at gateways; upgrading ferry and cruise liner terminals to include access harbour for cruise/leisure boats at Eyemouth; and investment in the Berwickshire coastal area for diving.

Dissatisfaction with how VisitScotland was promoting the region resulted in 60 Borders based tourism businesses joining together in 2007 to form Borders Tourist Board, whose initial website statement read: “Only a few years ago we would have been members of the Scottish Borders Tourist Board, now we are treated as an income source and nothing else by Visitscotland and their commercial partner Visitscotland.com. Our long term aim is to promote tourism and our businesses to visitors to the Borders.