Home Economy Boost for Midlothian and Borders firms to capitalise on tourism
£350k worth of support to include business events, workshops and a travel trade tourism development programme for the regions
Businesses in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders are set to benefit from a £350,000 funding boost as part of an initiative to develop tourism in the area.
They are to have access to a series of business engagement events, innovation workshops, product knowledge sessions, learning journeys, market research initiatives, international market development, and a travel trade tourism development programme delivered through the Midlothian and Borders Tourism Action Group (MBTAG) to help them capitalise on the opportunities presented by the Borders Railway, which launched in September 2015.
By engaging with the wider tourism sector, as well as businesses along the Borders Railway corridor, the two-year MBTAG project – comprising the Midlothian Tourism Forum, Midlothian Council, Scottish Borders Council, Borders Tourism Partnership, ScotRail and VisitScotland – 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 its tourism development plan.
It today (Tuesday, 17 January) unveiled its plans for the funding and announced that its new steering group, which is made up of private sector tourism leaders from across both regions, is to be chaired by Abbotsford House chief executive Giles Ingram.
MBTAG has pledged to work collaboratively with local businesses to build upon the success of the Borders Railway Tourism Development Programme which has been delivered since 2015.
It plans to significantly grow Midlothian and the Scottish Borders’ – which already have an annual tourism value of £314 million – tourism industry worth 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.
Acccording to MBTAG, the Borders Railway has already driven an increase in tourism in both areas since opening in September 2015, 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 says it will now 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.
Its first digital event for business will take place on February 21.
Giles Ingram, MBTAG chair and Abbotsford House chief executive, said: “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.”
Councillor David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “With an increase in the numbers of businesses and visitors to both areas thanks to the Borders Railway, it makes sense to capitalise on this early success and cement the economic benefit right along the new line. Through this new two year funding package we are looking forward to nurturing and developing businesses to deliver authentic experiences to tourists visiting Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.”
Midlothian Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Cllr 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.”
Edward Maitland-Carew, family trustee at Thirlestane Castle, said: “We are delighted to host the launch event for MBTAG at Thirlestane. With the castle back to its former glory after major restoration work, we are excited to be part of this new initiative to promote the Borders and Midlothian, and to welcome many more events and visitors to the area.”