Council to point way with better tourist signage

ALL promotional signage for the Borders which is located at entry points into the region should be improved, it was agreed this week, writes Mark Entwistle.

The decision was taken at a recent meeting of Scottish Borders Council (SBC) executive, which discussed a presentation on local tourism development which had been given to the March meeting of the local authority’s scrutiny panel.

Scrutiny panel members had previously discussed tourism development in 2008. The March presentation came about after Innerleithen and District Community Council had requested that scrutiny panel members address concerns that tourism development in the region was at a low level.

These worries included a lack of signage for Borders on main tourist routes into Scotland; little publicity in tourist information centres outside the Borders; and little or no advertising of the region on television or radio outwith the Borders.

The presentation had looked at three main areas – the council and tourism; links to VisitScotland and industry and VisitScotland.

But it was signage in the Borders, especially at cross-border sites, that was raised as a major concern by scrutiny members, who were told that a signage audit was being undertaken.

Considerable comment had also been made on the level and quality of regional entry point tourist signs. In March, Paula McDonald, regional director for VisitScotland, had pointed out that the cross-border visitors centre at Southwaite on the M6 had the highest number of visitors of any visitor information centre and contained details of Borders attractions.

At the executive meeting, members agreed with the scrutiny recommendation that promotional signage at cross-border entry points on the A1, A7, A68, A72 and A703 had to be improved.

Executive members also heard that Ms McDonald had agreed that the lack of a 200-plus bed hotel was inhibiting the Borders when it came to attracting major events.

The Borders suffers from an acute shortage of visitor beds, which was hampering development of the local tourism sector which is worth £169million a year to the regional economy.

SBC executive also noted that there was close co-operation between businesses, the local authority and VisitScotland and welcomed the new management structure within VisitScotland.

In the last financial year, Scottish Borders Council bought £115,000-worth of services from VisitScotland, made up of a £68,000 contribution to tourist information centres and £47,000 for marketing.

In addition, £40,000 of the council’s economic development budget was spent on product development and exhibitions, with a further £50,000 spent on support of such events as the Tour of Britain bike race.