An action group set up to develop the tourism industry in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders has unveiled its plans to use a £350,000 funding boost to benefit businesses.
Engaging with both the wider tourism sector outside of the Borders Railway corridor and businesses along the line, the two year project has secured £150,000 from the Borders Railway Blueprint Group, and a further £200,000 from Scottish Enterprise’s Tourism Destination Development Fund to implement the plan.
Looking to capitalise on the initial tourism boost delivered by the Borders Railway which opened in September 2015, Midlothian Tourism Forum and the Borders Tourism Partnership collaborated to set up the new group, Midlothian and Borders Tourism Action Group (MBTAG).
The new steering group is to be chaired by Abbotsford House chief executive Giles Ingram and is made up of private sector tourism leaders from across both regions.
MBTAG involves Midlothian Council, Scottish Borders Council, Midlothian Tourism Forum, Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership, Scotrail and VisitScotland, and has pledged to work collaboratively with local businesses. This activity will build upon the success of the Borders Railway Tourism Development Programme which has been delivered since September 2015.
With an annual tourism value of £314 million currently in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders, MBTAG will look to significantly grow the figure by 2020.
Specific activity set to take place over the coming years includes a series of business engagement events, business innovation workshops, product knowledge sessions, learning journeys, market research, international market development, and a travel trade tourism development programme.
The Borders Railway has already driven an increase in tourism in both areas, with visitor numbers increasing and a rise in the number of businesses setting up or growing in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders to service the surge in additional visitors.
The group will also look to encourage businesses to develop products and services linked to digital technology, and create new visitor experiences which can be enjoyed and explored using the Borders Railway.
Giles Ingram, MBTAG chairman and Abbotsford House chief executive, added: “The launch of the new action group is very positive news for both existing businesses in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian, and potential tourism enterprises. Through close collaboration with the business communities outside of the railway corridor, we hope to further increase their offering to the growing tourist population that the areas now command.”
Midlothian Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development Councillor Jim Bryant said: “The project will help businesses focus on their key markets and ensure they work collaboratively to deliver new experiences and products. This additional funding will help all of us to enhance the quality of the visitor experience and generate increased spend to both areas.”