Boosting the Borders

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Celebrating its 10th anniversary, The Outdoor Show shifted venues this year to the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands.

Staff from Scottish Borders Council, including tourism officer, Kate Pearson, made the journey down loaded with information for potential visitors to Scottish Borders.

The show has been an annual event since 2002. Initially sponsored by Ordnance Survey, it has been based at the NEC in Birmingham. The show was designed, unsurprisingly, to celebrate outdoor activities for a population that have more time to play and, depending on the financial climate, more expendable income.

The move to the docklands venue was to team up with the International Boat Show and the London Bike Show. The bike contingent had plenty of interactive exhibitions and displays. One display crew was the Clan from Scotland who performed breathtaking two-wheeled stunts.

The rest of the show is divided into various areas including: the Adventure Travel Zone, with exhibitors promoting adventure travel destinations around the world – although, there is plenty of adventure travel to be found near to home.

Accompanied by the council’s senior access officer, Neil Mackay, Kate distributed information about our long-distance routes – the Borders Abbeys Way, the Southern Upland Way, the St Cuthbert’s Way and the John Buchan Way. To complement our walking routes, cycle ways were also promoted with maps and itineraries available for visitors to the show.

Kate said: “We were the only Scottish presence at the Outdoor Show this year, therefore, the footfall to the stand was high on all four days – we did a lot of making people aware of where we are – the map on the display board helped this process. Sail Scotland were at the Boat Show and we liaised with them to promote each other to visitors at our stands.

“Attendance at the show was only made possible by funding from the VisitScotland Growth Fund allowing us to maximise and promote our region and its activities to the rest of the UK. Expanding activities included diving, mountain biking, golfing and fishing.”

The Newcastleton Business Group, the Jedburgh Events Forum and Jedburgh Alliance passed on special offers for the stand, representing 35 businesses in these two towns. The Jedburgh-based business owner of Walking Support was there to help out for the full four days.

Despite the success of the event for the Scottish Borders team, bloggers from around the country have been complaining about the change of venue and, ultimately, the change of direction for the Outdoor Show.

People have commented that the focus on walking and climbing has been shifted, certainly diluted. The size of the show when combined with the boat and bike shows has meant that television celebrities are attracted to the event, often with much fame and little substance.

Certainly the negative comments have not affected the success of the Scottish Borders stand. An example of excellent communication and marketing skills was the couple from Wolverhampton who booked a two-week holiday in Jedburgh after picking up the Borders Abbeys Way booklet at the show in 2010.