Visitors to the Borders are being offered food for thought by a new group founded to boost the region’s tourist trade.
The South of Scotland Food and Tourism Leadership Group has been set up by Visit South West Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Food and Drink, the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership and the Scottish Borders Food and Drink Network, helped by VisitScotland.
It held its first meeting in Moffat, and among those at that inaugural get-together was tourism destination development expert Carron Tobin.
Carron, formerly executive director of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, welcomed the creation of the group, saying: “We know from past experience that destination development works best when the businesses working within an area are empowered to determine their own needs.
“For rural areas in particular, it is important that the voice of local businesses and communities is heard before deciding what the marketing narrative or place-based brand should be.
“This meeting is an exciting development in the south of Scotland becoming empowered to determine how the area should be marketed.
“The collaboration between both the tourism and the food and drink industries in this meeting is an innovative approach, reflecting how these important sectors are intertwined across the south of Scotland economy.
“The four organisations that initiated this meeting should be congratulated for recognising their common opportunity, for quickly reaching a consensus on what needs to happen next and starting to work together for the benefit of the south of Scotland.”
John Henderson, vice-chairman of the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership, chairman of the Scottish Borders Food and Drink Network and owner of the Born in the Borders brewery and visitor centre near Jedburgh, said: “We had an open and frank discussion that drilled down into the structure and make-up of our respective industries in both the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway and explored in some depth the shared opportunity.
“Running a business that straddles both the food and drink and tourism sectors means I can see very clearly the potential that could be unlocked if we develop these two sectors in tandem.
“We have discussed the potential of creating this cross-sector, cross-region leadership for some time now, so I’m delighted to see it come to fruition.
“The commitment to deliver on an ambitious vision for our regions and the real desire to grasp the opportunities that could lie ahead was exciting indeed.
“Now is the time for our areas and our industries to come together to position the south of Scotland as an appealing destination and a successful place in which to do business.”
VisitScotland region leadership director Paula Ward added: “We know that south Scotland has an incredible larder, a stunning location and exceptional quality of visitor experience, and I am delighted to have been able to support the industries’ ambition to meet for the first time and start the journey of working together.
“The economic growth potential within tourism and the food and drink sector are intrinsically linked, and the creation of the new south of Scotland economic agency offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the way we approach growth in this part of Scotland.
“To realise our potential, we need strong industry led by inspiring leaders, and this feels like the journey has now started.”
Among the group’s first tasks is to compile a response to the Scottish Government’s consultation over the new enterprise agency being set up for the south of Scotland.