Natural Growth Fund will help with tourism projects

Vicky Woodward from East Links Family Park in East Lothian gets closer to nature as VisitScotland launches new dedicated Growth Fund.
Vicky Woodward from East Links Family Park in East Lothian gets closer to nature as VisitScotland launches new dedicated Growth Fund.

BUSINESSES in the Borders and East Lothian as of today can now benefit from a new fund that will help the region’s tourism businesses to work collaboratively to create a new viewpoint for potential visitors to Scotland.

VisitScotland have launched the £150,000 cash Natural Growth Fund that will boost marketing projects themed around the Year of Natural Scotland 2013.

The Year of Natural Scotland theme will officially start on January 1, 2013, with the National Tourism Organisation marketing the year by opening up this dedicated Growth Fund. The money will give tourism business a chance to link their offerings to the Year of Natural Scotland and capitalise on the opportunities it will create.

Applications to the fund are open to destination organisations and industry group and the cash is expected to support inspiring marketing projects which showcase the region’s unique natural environment and support the growth of tourism spend in the area.

Research shows that nature-based activities are worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending in Scotland. And with the value of wildlife tourism being estimated at over £270 million, VisitScotland is encouraging the local tourism industry to think about ways in which they can make the next focus year work for them.

Whether promoting places which are off the beaten track, creating itineraries for rural wildlife walks or developing nature trails through the city, the fund is hoping to attract interest from groups the length and breadth of Scotland and encourages people to think creatively about what Scotland’s natural assets mean to them. And it’s not just about wildlife - walking festivals, Scotland’s natural larder and beaches are also set to be spotlighted.

Paula McDonald, regional director of VisitScotland said: “The Year of Natural Scotland 2013 is an opportunity for businesses in the Scottish Borders to work together and promote our natural assets. This also means getting everyone to appreciate the great natural icons they have right on their own doorstep and think about how we can take what Scotland does best - scenery, landscapes and stunning natural beauty - and help put more cash in the till.

“The Lothians also offer a great variety of natural environments to explore whether it be East Lothian’s formidable coastline or the hills and forest parks to be found in Midlothian and West Lothian.”

The VisitScotland Natural Growth Fund coincides with the launch of a special industry toolkit which tourism businesses can download from the VisitScotland corporate website

The toolkit includes logos and images, and features a range of marketing tools to help businesses embrace the promotional opportunities of this yearlong focus on Scotland’s natural assets. It provides a one-stop shop to access and download material to help the tourism industry engage with the Year of Natural Scotland 2013.

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, added: “The Year of Natural Scotland is an opportunity to spotlight, celebrate and promote Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty and landscapes. We can also inspire the people of Scotland and our visitors to experience and participate in Scotland’s natural heritage at festivals and events, natural tourism attractions and outdoor locations.

“It will promote the contribution of Scotland’s nature and landscapes to making our country a better place to live, work and visit and help to ensure our nature and landscape are seen as assets which contribute to the Scottish economy. Importantly, it will ensure momentum is maintained on celebrating some of Scotland’s greatest assets as we progress towards 2014, when the staging of a second Year of Homecoming, Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup will ensure Scotland is centre stage in world terms.”

Growth Fund awards will be made on a 50:50 match funding basis from a minimum of £2,500 to maximum of £25,000 award (total marketing project spend of between £5,000 to £50,000).