Tourism audit highlights opportunities and challenges for businesses

Wednesday June 10th 2015

Borders Railway Countryside

A tourism destination audit commissioned by Midlothian Council and Scottish Borders Council has highlighted almost 30 tourism business development opportunities connected to the opening of the Borders Railway.

The audit of tourism products and services identified over 1,600 different facilities of visitor interest across the two areas and stressed specific opportunities for collaboration and partnership working between different facilities to position Midlothian and the Scottish Borders as must-visit areas that can be easily and quickly accessed through the Borders Railway.

It also identified a number of gaps in the provision of facilities and services that will need to be addressed to maximise the positive impact of the new railway and the benefits it brings to local tourism operators.

Key amongst these are visitor orientation and welcome facilities and integrated onward travel services from railway stations to ensure the spread of visitors throughout both areas.

Councillor Stuart Bell, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Economic Development, said: “The audit clearly outlines the potential to grow tourism in Midlothian and Scottish Borders, taking advantage of the opening of the Borders Railway.

“This is the ‘warts and all’ view of the tourism industry in the area that we knew we needed. It is important that the problems are addressed, and in fact many can actually be viewed as further opportunities to maximise the economic impact of the railway.

“It is essential that individual businesses engage with the railway and review what they can do to deliver an unforgettable visitor experience that makes it easy for railway passengers to enjoy the best of what both areas have to offer.”

The tourism destination audit was delivered as part of the Borders Railway Blueprint that sets out an ambition to fully realise the economic benefits of the Borders Railway, transform tourism opportunities and open up communities as new places to live, work, learn, play and grow.

A survey of local businesses, which was undertaken as part of the audit, found that over 80 per cent of those who responded believe the Borders Railway will benefit tourism in Midlothian and Scottish Borders. However, the same survey highlighted that a majority of individual businesses are not currently planning any new activities or services to cater for visitors arriving by rail.

Councillor Jim Bryant, Midlothian Council’s Cabinet Member for Tourism and Economic Development, added: “We need to work together to ensure that we exceed visitors’ expectations. We want them to come back again and stay even longer and recommend Midlothian and the Scottish Borders to friends and family.

“Business Gateway services in both areas will be launching a new Business Development Programme to encourage and help local businesses come together to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to put Midlothian and the Scottish Borders more strongly on the Scottish tourism map.”

VisitScotland has launched a ‘Borders Railway Industry Toolkit’ has been launched which offers marketing and branding guidance, and suggested itineraries for one-day, four-day and six-day food and drinks trails using the railway as main source of transport. Businesses can download this at

Plans are also in progress to deliver a dedicated tourist bus service in the Scottish Borders in time for the opening weekend of the Borders Railway, to coincide with the six-week steam train experience pilot.

The audit identified particular tourism strengths in Midlothian including:

  • Innovative facilities for active younger markets
  • Heritage hotels and properties with small scale meeting facilities
  • Large retail complexes that attract visitors into the area
  • An extensive public transport infrastructure
  • A sizeable cycling business sector

In the Scottish Borders, the strengths identified were:

  • High quality accommodation stock, particularly in the serviced accommodation sector
  • Market leading facilities for outdoor activities
  • Iconic built heritage facilities providing high quality visitor experiences
  • A wide range of speciality shopping and artist studios/galleries
  • An extensive and imaginative portfolio events.

A copy of the Borders Railway Tourism Destination Audit report can be downloaded here

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