Tourism Visitor Figures Boost Attributed to Borders Railway
New data has revealed that tourism in the Borders and Midlothian has received a major boost since the introduction of the Borders Railway.
The Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) statistics show a significant improvement in key tourism performance figures 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.
Notably, the STEAM figures show:
• The number of visitor days in hotels and bed and breakfasts has risen by 27 per cent
• A 20 per cent rise in visitor spend on food and drink
• Visitor spend on accommodation is up 17 per cent
• A 16 per cent rise in overall visitor spend
• The number of days visitors stayed in the Borders has increased by almost 11 per cent
• Eight per cent increase in employment related to tourism
• A 12.3 per cent rise in the number of visitor days in hotels and bed and breakfasts compared with first six months of 2015
• Visitor spend on food and drink in same period rose by 6.5 per cent
• Overall visitor spend was up 6.8 per cent
• The number of days visitors stayed in Midlothian increased by 7.2 per cent
• A 4.1 per cent improvement in employment related to tourism.
The Borders data will be discussed by Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Committee on Tuesday 31 January.
Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC’s Executive Member for Economic Development, added: “Tourism is absolutely vital to the Scottish Borders’ economy, and that is why this substantial rise in tourism activity in the first half of 2016 is so important.
“For the first time in a decade, the Borders have shown improved results in every STEAM category – the only area of mainland Scotland to do so for this period.
“The introduction of the railway has undoubtedly contributed to these figures.
“Passengers numbers at all Borders stations have exceeded predictions, and this has brought more staying visitors and day-trippers to the region.
“Working with partners in the Borders Railway Blueprint Group, the Council will continue to deliver a range of economic benefits and encourage businesses to take advantage of the many development opportunities available in the region, which has been opened up to a greater audience by the railway.”
Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for economic development, Councillor Jim Bryant said: “We’re absolutely delighted the Borders Railway is introducing more people to Midlothian’s wonderful scenery and world-class attractions.
“We were always confident that Borders Railway would bring new jobs, more tourists and significant economic opportunities to the area. These figures are testament to the fact, these benefits are already underway.”
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf added: “The reopening of the Borders Railway was a cause for celebration for residents of the Borders and Midlothian who had waited almost half a century to see services return to their area.
“We were always confident that, in time, it would deliver major economic opportunities and attract new investment. It is therefore very pleasing to see strong evidence that visits are up significantly, alongside spending, as a direct result of the railway.
“The popularity of the Borders Railway is undisputed. Over 1.2 million passenger journeys in its first year alone, and with additional seats on peak time services and more improvements and initiatives in the pipeline we look forward to seeing even more investment and interest in the area in the months and years ahead.”
Danny Cusick, Chair of the Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group and Director of Tourism at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Midlothian and the Borders provide some of the best that Scotland has to offer and the area now benefits from one of the world’s most scenic and iconic rail journeys.
“We have always been confident that the line would attract visitors from all over the world so we’re delighted to see this evidence that Borders Railway is delivering on our ambitions.
“This latest data comes on the back of positive news from Borders College about students using the line and the service overall meeting its original passenger projections. We also know that businesses are experiencing the benefits of the line and look forward to even more developments in the area, supporting incomes and jobs for people in the region.”
VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: “The re-establishment of the Borders Railway has been a great success and these figures show that there has been a significant boost to tourism in the area which is fantastic news.
“The re-opening of the railway line by HM The Queen in September 2015 was truly a historic occasion which shone the global spotlight on the Scottish Borders and Midlothian.
“Here is the evidence that this enormous tourism investment in southeast Scotland is having a real impact on the local economy, touching on every industry, business and community and we look forward to continuing our work with partners to make the Borders Railway a success.”
Alasdair Smart, the ScotRail Alliance’s tourism manager, said: “We are proud to play our part in creating a positive Borders Railway experience, and it’s fantastic to see such significant growth in tourists and visitors to this beautiful part of Scotland.
“We will continue to support the line and the communities served by it through our involvement with a range of partners, including the Borders Blueprint Group.”