BORDERS forests will be surveyed to find out more about visitors this year.
Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) will ask forest-goers to Glentress, Newcastleton, Traquair and Yair, and other areas, about travel, visits, accommodation and the reason for visiting the woodland.
FCS’s marketing manager Laura Stewart said: “Welcoming visitors to our forests is very important on a number of fronts.
“Our forests are often part and parcel of overall tourism strategies and can be big tourism destinations which support local economies. On the other hand, our woodlands are vital as they are well used by local communities as popular place for walking, cycling or simply taking the dog for a walk.
“To help us find out more about our visitors, we will be undertaking this survey throughout the year. The information will help the commission and other organisations get a better picture of what is happening in our forests and woodlands.”
Face-to-face interviews with visitors are likely to include questions on their age, reason for visiting, whether they travelled from home that day, whether they are returning home that night, what sort of accommodation they would use, how many nights would be spent away from home, how far they travelled, what transport they used, whether they had been to that woodland before and an estimate of how much they would spend in the area.
A spokesman for FCS said: “We use this information to build up a better picture of where people come from and what activities they do and how often they do it. Combine this with information on how they get here too, how much they might spend and the actual hard visitor numbers and this is great information to help with overall marketing of the destination.
“It provides data for the commission to base future priorities on recreation spend and also provides other organisations with the same valuable data. It is all put online.”
The survey is part of an ongoing national monitoring programme and follows on from similar research carried out across Scotland between 2004 and 2007. FCS says the data recorded then will act as a valuable benchmark for comparison.
Data on visitor numbers will also be collected from vehicle and people counters.
Figures from the last survey show nearly half of visits Scotland-wide were for dog walking with about a third for other walking and just 10 per cent cycling. However in the Borders nearly half of visits (47 per cent) were for cycling or mountain biking, with Glentress recording two thirds of its visitors attending for biking. Also 40 per cent of respondents in the Borders said the forest was their sole reason for visiting the area.
Nationally, just over three in 10 visitors to Scottish forests stayed in a tent, caravan or cabin, about a fifth stayed in a hotel, guest house or B&B or self-catered and a sixth of visitors stayed at home or with friends. The Borders recorded the second highest percentage of visitors – 41 per cent – using a tent caravan or cabin.
The average length of visit is an hour and 23 minutes, with men staying longer than women. The Borders recorded the longest average visits (two hours) and cyclists and mountain bikers who had travelled more than 25 miles stayed over two hours.
Just over half of visitors nationally were male (54 per cent) but researchers found in the Borders it was 65 per cent. The region attracted a higher than average number of young adults aged between 16 and 34 years.
Nationally around three in five visits to the forest were estimated to have taken place on weekdays with 17 per cent on Saturdays and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) on Sundays. But in the Borders over half of visits (54 per cent) took place on the weekends.