Borders businesses launch crowdfunding campaign in bid to fund new tourism strategy

From left, John Henderson, partnership chairman Will Haegelandand Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland.
From left, John Henderson, partnership chairman Will Haegelandand Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland.

Borders businesses are putting their money where their mouths are in a bid to boost the region’s appeal as a tourist destination.

An appeal by the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership for businesses in the region to donate £10 apiece to a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for a new strategy to attract visitors is already almost a third of the way towards its £5,000 target despite only being launched late last week.

The aim, once that figure is reached, is to seek the same again or more in public-sector funding to pay for the production of a tourism blueprint by Tom Campbell, chief executive of the North Highland Initiative, and John Lennon, director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University.

The pair were responsible for thinking up the North Coast 500 route estimated to have led to a 26% rise in visitors to the parts of north-west Scotland it serves such as the Black Isle, Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross since its launch in 2015, and businesses in the Borders believe they could reproduce that success story further south.

Partnership vice-chairman John Henderson said: “The Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership is operated by the industry for the industry.

“We believe that we have a world-class tourism product in the Scottish Borders which working together can position as one of the Scottish regions to visit.

“If we are serious about this, the industry needs to show its commitment and invest in the future of tourism in the Scottish Borders.

“All we are asking is that every tourism business donates £10 or more.

“We want to change the face of tourism in the Scottish Borders for ever and urge tourism businesses to make their contribution today.

“Working together, we can make the most of this wonderful region.”

To contribute, go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sbtptourismstrategy

What form the strategy takes remains to be seen as the partnership has only held preliminary talks with Mr Campbell and Prof Lennon so far, but it would not seek to go down the same route as North Coast 500, said Mr Henderson, also owner of the Born in the Borders brewery and visitor centre at Lanton, near Jedburgh.

“We’re definitely not talking about another road route, but it will be something equally creative and inspiring,” he said.

“We’re looking to identify the strong points of the Borders at the moment and what visitors want in terms of experience.

“We want to target the right people with the right experiences in the right way.”

Mr Henderson estimates that such a strategy, once commissioned, would take about two months to complete.

A partnership spokesman added: “It’s time to start shouting about the Borders.

“For an area with such extraordinary heritage, incredible landscapes, amazing accommodation and delicious food and drink, we think the untapped tourism potential of our region is huge.

“We’re just an hour away from Edinburgh, one of the biggest tourist honeypots in the UK, yet not enough has been done to put the Borders on the national and international visitor map.

“We need some big ideas that will capture the imagination of tourists, turn Edinburgh south and boost the economy of the whole Scottish Borders.”