While there are almost 40 improvement districts in operation throughout Scotland’s town and city centres including one in Selkirk – this is only the second tourism-specific improvement district, after Visit Inverness in the Highlands.
Improvement districts provide a mechanism for local businesses to work together with other public and private sector partners to improve local economies and communities.
The Tweed Valley Tourism BID has been in development for the past 18 months, with a five-year business plan launched in October following extensive consultation with participating tourism businesses.
The result of the ballot, conducted by Scottish Borders Council, showed that over 80% of voting businesses (from a turnout of 68.4%) supported the initiative. This will allow a levy to be taken from participating businesses over a five-year period to fund investments to improve the area’s tourism product. It is hoped that the £350,000 private investment will be match-funded by the public sector.
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“This is a result that provides a strong mandate to take forward our ambition to see the Tweed Valley develop as a world-class activity destination,” said Catherine Maxwell Stuart, chairperson of the Tweed Valley BID steering group.
“This was a plan led by business for business and an overwhelming majority have backed our vision. I would like to thank Emma Guy and the whole team that has worked on the business plan and, of course, the businesses that have worked so closely with us along the way.”
The council has supported the development of the Tourism BID from its outset and provided advice and financial assistance for the development phase, alongside the Scottish Government, through the Scotland’s Towns Partnership.
Councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s executive member for business and economic development, said: “I am delighted at the result of the BID vote, which demonstrates a huge commitment from tourism and hospitality businesses in the Tweed Valley to work together and make a great destination exceptional.
“The Tweed Valley BID is ambitious and will have an extremely positive impact on the area, enhancing and expanding the existing tourism offering and the vibrancy of an area that already punches well above its weight in attracting national and international events and visitors to the Borders.”
The result of the ballot has also been welcomed by Scotland’s Improvement Districts, the national agency which supports business improvement districts across Scotland.
“It’s great to see the establishment of the Tweed Valley as another tourism-themed improvement district in Scotland,” commented Phil Prentice, national programme director of Scotland’s Improvement Districts.
“This shows the flexibility of the business improvement district model, which as well as focusing on town centres or city neighbourhoods can be sectoral and span a wide geography.
“The Tweed Valley Tourism BID team has worked hard to build this collaborative vehicle for the area, and we wish them every success in their plans to make a difference for the local economy and communities.”
Following the successful ballot, the project steering group will now establish and register a Tourism BID company as a not-for-profit limited company, with the primary responsibility of delivering the projects outlined in the approved business plan. The Tourism BID will operate from April 1, 2020.
“We have some preparatory work to do ahead of the start of the Tourism BID in April next year, but we intend to hit the ground running and fully deliver on this exciting project,” added Mrs Maxwell Stuart. “We can’t wait to get started.”