Edinburgh is a major tourism centre in the UK and the main gateway to the South East Scotland region. Around 4 million visitors a year inject £1.32 billion into the local economy through the mix of shopping, culture, music, heritage and leisure facilities. In 2014, average accommodation occupancy levels in Edinburgh (80.5%) were among the highest in Europe. This included a mix of business and leisure tourism, with the former estimated to generate around £300 million a year for the city region.
The Borders Railway brings a number of major tourist attractions such as Abbotsford House, Melrose, Roslyn Chapel and the National Mining Museum even closer to Edinburgh residents as well as its domestic and international visitors. New ventures such as Dalkeith Country Park have strengthened the sub-regional appeal.
Galashiels was also recently chosen as the new permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland, a unique community arts project which will deliver a huge tourism and regeneration boost to the town. The £6 million project is due to open in 2020 and is predicted to attract 51,000 visitors a year, increasing visitor spending by some £2m annually, as well a host of other local benefits.
Tourism Full Steam Ahead
The Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) statistics released in January 2017 already demonstrate a significant improvement in key tourism performance figures for Scottish Borders and Midlothian in the first half of 2016, compared to the first half of 2015 when the railway was not yet open. It is also the first time in 10 years that every category measured has improved. The company which produces STEAM data believes the most likely source for the rise in tourism activity in the Borders and Midlothian is the railway.
Growth opportunities exist within the hospitality industry, services industry, tour operators and supply chains for both business and non-business visitors, and the Borders Railway area is a great place to establish or locate a tourism related business.
This is supported by the work of VisitScotland, and Midlothian Borders Tourism Action Group, which aims to drive tourism to the two regions through business engagement and innovation events, and developing new products and services.
Such is the attraction of the Borders, that the BBC commissioned a TV series called ‘The River’ all about life along the Tweed. First broadcast in December 2016, a selection of clips and features from series is available on the BBC website. (At the time of writing, it is not available on iPlayer but video downloads can be purchased from the same web address.)
As seen in the programme, active tourism is a huge growth business area. The Borders region plays host to a World Class Mountain Bike venue at Glentress and a plethora of hiking and biking wilderness trails.
The Borders Railway is the gateway to beautiful countryside and world class outdoor leisure activities, creative a fertile environment for business investment, start up and expanding companies in the tourist sector. And with the Mountain biking and cycling industry now estimated to be worth £360m per year to the Scottish economy, with around 1.4m visits to trail centres and wilderness3, there has never been a better time to saddle up and start your new business idea in the Borders Railway area.
Hotel Market Assessment
Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group and Scottish Development International (SDI) have commissioned consultants Hotel Solutions to provide a market assessment and strategic framework for hotel accommodation in the Borders Railway corridor.
This strategic review will provide an update audit of supply and demand of leisure and business accommodation across the full spectrum of providers, along the Borders Rail corridor. With consideration of potential growth of the Edinburgh market and new tourist attractions along the rail corridor, and taking account of hotel operators’ business models, the strategic review will identify gaps in the market and opportunities for hotel investors and operators.
With STEAM figures showing the number of visitor days in hotels and bed and breakfasts in the Borders has risen by 27 per cent since the opening of the railway and visitor spend on accommodation is up 17 per cent in the same period, there’s growing potential for new accommodation provision.