Railway tourism boost

VisitScotland's Regional Director for the Scottish Borders, Paula McDonald
VisitScotland's Regional Director for the Scottish Borders, Paula McDonald

The return of rail travel in the Borders has been described as a ‘game-changer’ for tourism by VisitScotland’s regional director.

Paula McDonald told TheSouthern this week that a large percentage of incoming train passengers to Galashiels and Tweedbank would likely be tourists.

And because of the potential high footfall of visitors, Miss McDonald said VisitScotland was examining the opportunity to create new tourist information points in the towns.

However, she emphasised that any decision would be taken in conjunction with the council and the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership.

Miss McDonald told councillors last week that VisitScotland was looking at more ‘cost effective’ ways of providing tourist information.

But she also assured them that there is no plan to close any local visitor centres.

She praised the ‘information and partnership point’ approach that has proved successful in Selkirk and Eyemouth, where other organisations provide space and staff, and VisitScotland train the staff and provide all the literature and display racks for the information.

She said this style of working was appropriate where a partnership could be created with somewhere which generates high visitor footfall. However, this week Miss McDonald said other options were also available, including digital media in ‘self-help pods’.

She added: “The railway is an amazing opportunity, so it is about how we make sure information is available when people step off the platform.

“That could also be an information and partnership point, where we would match up with a high-profile visitor attraction or co-locate within a council building.”

In November last year it was confirmed that the platform at Tweedbank would be made long enough to accommodate tourist charter and steam trains.

Currently, there are seven tourist information centres in the Borders, three open year-round, two seasonally, and the two partnership points.