I’m delighted to be updating you several weeks on from the reopening of tourism across the South of Scotland, and especially as we enjoy some summer weather at last! It has been a very busy first few weeks of reopening and I would like to say a massive thanks to our tourism industry for not giving up, working tirelessly to get ready and implement all of the government guidelines to safely re-open and showing guts and determination through the toughest of times.
As we have started to welcome back visitors to our communities, we continue to focus on the recovery of the industry, building a destination and visitor experience which allows tourism to thrive now and in the future. As we saw last year at some locations throughout the region, pressure was put on the local environments and communities. We are working closely with our partners, including the South of Scotland Enterprise, South of Scotland Destination Alliance, NatureScot and both Local Authorities we will ensure that we adopt a coordinated approach to the management of those areas popular with visitors.
As well as ensuring that there are adequate facilities in areas like St Abbs, Grey Mare’s Tail and Galloway Forest Park, it’s also about educating people about how to enjoy our fantastic country responsibly. Our natural resources are hugely important to communities and visitors alike and should be protected. With the restart of tourism, we have a unique opportunity to positively engage audiences, helping them to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and enabling them to aid the recovery of our rural economy.
To ensure we maintain our stunning landscapes, we must ensure we protect, respect and enjoy our countryside and cities responsibly by asking people to leave no physical trace of their visit. Our tourism industry needs us now more than ever – not only is a day trip or staycation the perfect antidote after lockdown, but it will help support our industry and rebuild this vital part of the economy.
Tourism a Force for Good
We’ve been busy working on content to showcase how tourism is a force for good. We want to remind everyone how important tourism is to the economy, to the wellbeing of our country and the development of a sustainable future. So, now is the time to start shouting about tourism being a force for good.
We’ve been looking at the latest regional factsheets for each of our regions and have created ‘postcards’ with the key figures showing the value of tourism to our economy. These handy postcards are easy to use on your social media channels or websites, or for your own reference. They've been added to our Digital Media Library, which you can register to for free. Simply login and search "Tourism a force for good" to access them.
Take look at our case studies which features the ‘biking town’ Innerleithen and ‘The Hub on the High Street'. We spoke to owner Pauline Macdonald and discussed how the town is thriving after investment and business development.
Find out more information on our Tourism a Force for Good project. Join us in telling the world how brilliant this industry is, share our stories and share on social media using #tourismforceforgood.
Our iCentres reopen
The teams at our Jedburgh and Dumfries iCentres are delighted to be welcoming visitors after being closed due to the pandemic. Now doors are open once again, they are seeing 'lots of visitors from over the border and, increasingly, from farther afield'.
During the lockdown VisitScotland staff have been busy supporting with projects such as funds and working with local industry organisations. They've been liaising with the South of Scotland Destination Alliance to produce two guides to 'what's open' in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway.
We’re delighted to be open again welcoming visitors and helping them to get the best experience from their holiday in Scotland and especially our area. Jed' have had a bit of a mini re-vamp, we’ve got fabulous new windows and have been completely repainted inside and some new extra signage outside.
We’ve been busy with lots of day trippers as well as people staying for the week, its so great to feel a buzz around the place again and especially as the weather has been so great.
New programme of support webinars
We’re running a new series of webinars focusing your digital needs. With the ever-evolving landscape of the tourism industry there needs to be continuous learning and development in order to stay relevant. Here are a few of the courses coming up or take a look at the full programme.
- Make your tourism website work for your customers
- Tourism businesses: Managing your online reputation and why It’s even more important now
- Tourism businesses: Enhance your social media presence in 90 mins | Business Gateway (bgateway.com)
These are joint VisitScotland and DigitalBoost events which are funded by Digital Scotland and delivered by Business Gateway. They are all free to attend and online.
Year of Coasts and Waters
It’s the Year of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters and we’re celebrating with a programme of activity designed to inspire both visitors and locals to explore and experience our unrivalled shores.
But what does the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 mean for your business or organisation? Take a look at our toolkit and case studies of businesses that by using the themed year are engaging with visitors and enhancing the visitor experience.
Also our Water Wellness campaign will launch on the 14 June and run over the summer months, there's lots of new content coming and we will be encouraging businesses to promote their own water wellness experiences and products.
South of Scotland Destination Alliance
The SSDA team has been catching up with partners, members and communities on welcoming back visitors and supporting upcoming plans. They have collated helpful information, guidance, a guide on what's open, as well as their visitor charter in their re-opening toolkit.
Dumfries & Galloway council have launched a reopening campaign, welcoming visitors back to the region. SSDA is proud to support the campaign - consisting of over 2,000 posters and banners, new signage, as well as downloadable material - and has worked with the council to put SSDA's destination marketing campaign Scotland Starts Here at the heart of it all.
Scotland Starts Here continues to thrive. This is a consumer marketing campaign with dedicated website, app, social channels and media campaigns, as well as our platform to share the tourism offering of our region. Join in using #ScotlandStartsHere on your own consumer facing channels and follow Scotland Starts Here on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
New content on visitscotland.com
At visitscotland.com, our content team produce blogs to inspire our visitors. They feature the South of Scotland over a wide range of themes to attract as many visits to our buisness listings as possible.
They are great to share on your social channels and websites to give your visitors a flavour of what they can experience in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway.
Here are a few of the latest blogs or take a look at visitscotland.com/blog:
- 15 Best Summer Photography Spots to Visit in Scotland - featuring Mellerstain House, St Abbs, Portpatrick and Dunskey Castle.
- 22 Eco-Tourism Places to Stay & Visit in Scotland - featuring Corsewall Estate Holiday Cottages, the Devil's Porridge Museum and Go Ape, Glentress.
- 9 Stunning Gardens to Explore During the Scottish Summer Garden Festival - featuring Logan Botanic Gardens and Dawyck Gardens.
- 8 Rural & Remote Places To Escape To In Scotland - featuring Galloway Forest Park, Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, Loch Ken Eco Bothies, Newcastleton Forest, Fatlips Castle, Hermitage Castle and Smailholm Tower, and the Borders Distillery.
The return of events
It’s wonderful to see events returning to our social calendar again, it’s been a tough time for the events sector. When communities and tourism businesses work together to restart tourism in a responsible way - everyone wins.
Here are a few in-person events to look forward to in the South of Scotland:
- Tweedlove is back with Gritopia (a gravel event, mostly in the woods) and Skinny Tweed (road ride with open roads) followed by the Glentress Seven. Following government guidance at Tweedlove - there’s something for everyone.
- Raiders Gravel is a 4-day gravel race set in Galloway and Southern Ayrshire. The inaugural edition is set to take place from 7-10 October 2021, and will feature three stages of racing in Galloway Forest Park.
- Thirlestane Castle welcomes visitors back with their outdoor theatre performance of Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare at Traquair is also returns with their 'open air promenade production' in the grounds of Traquair House. Or you can watch 'Little Red And The Big Bad Wolf' at Threave Gardens.
- The Baillie Gifford Borders Book Festival has been pushed back again but hopes to welcome in person visitors from 2-7 November 2021.
- And also we see the return of music festivals such as the DoonHame Festival at the Crichton, Dumfries in July or 'ten days of the best classical chamber music in the Scottish Borders' at Music at Paxton House.
Stay the night
Forestry and Land Scotland have announced that motorhomes and campervans that are self-contained and have their own toilet facilities will be able to stay overnight at some of their car parks from 26 April – 31 October 2021 in a continuation of the Stay the Night initiative they ran last year.
Locations include Dalbeattie, Kirroughtree and Cheviot. The full list of sites is available on the Stay the Night - Forestry and Land Scotland page.
Hame Town Tourist
We’ve launched the next phase of our successful #HameTownTourist campaign to help inspire visitors across Scotland to get out and explore their local areas once again and support our tourism industry this spring and summer.
We’re working with a series of local ambassadors who will be exploring some of Scotland’s cities, towns and regions to share their knowledge of local attractions, experiences and hospitality as well as showcase some of their own favourite hidden gems.
Be an ambassador for the South of Scotland – join in using #HameTownTourist and shout about the exciting things to see and do on your doorstep, inviting visitors to discover your local area.
Annandale Distillery lists on Airbnb
As part of a partnership campaign beyween VisitScotland and AirBnB new “Scottish Lowlands” feature content was created to highlight our stunning Scottish Borders and the treasure trove of Dumfries & Galloway.
As part of this campaign Annandale Distillery, Annan decided to celebrate Scottish Whisky Month in style with an innovative idea. The independent whisky distillery in the south of Scotland opened its doors to whisky fans by offering an opportunity to go behind the scenes and become a distiller for a day.
The stay is available only on Airbnb as part of a new campaign to encourage people to visit Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. Read the full story.
One of the principal reasons why we decided to restore Annandale Distillery was our burning desire to re-introduce Scotch Whisky production to Southern Scotland. This stay on Airbnb gives us the chance to involve guests behind the scenes and show them that the Scotch Whisky produced at Annandale is more than a product, it’s a labour of love! Enticing visitors to our part of Scotland is not only good for us but also for other local businesses.
The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) in partnership with Springboard, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance and UK Hospitality will be delivering a two week campaign to support the hospitality sector and move people into jobs within the sector.
The #HospitalityScotland campaign will run for two weeks from Monday 7 June to Friday 18 June 2021 and includes webinars, online job fairs and social media activity.
If you or your company would like to be involved in the campaign on any level, through sharing vacancies, webinars or showcasing testimonials, or would like to know more about the event, please contact DWP:
In other news
- To mark Carers Week 2021 and show unpaid carers the recognition they deserve – Crieff Hydro Family of Hotels has partnered with Respitality Scotland. They are donating bed and breakfast stays at all eight hotels in its portfolio, 50 family passes to Glen’s Adventure Park at Crieff Hydro and a group two-hour gin school experience at 1881 Distillery in Peebles.
- Live Borders have published an update on their progress towards reopening Museums, Galleries & Archives across the region, including development of digital access to collections.
- Thirlestane Castle have announced that they will be offering new Afternoon Tea experiences in partnership with family-run Lauder restaurant Firebrick.
- The Ebbcarrs Cafe, St Abbs was chosen as one of '10 of the UK's best beach cafes and bars, chosen by readers' of the Guardian this month.
- Lochcarron of Scotland's Visitor Centre in Selkirk is to close at the end of the year and is to be relocated within the Waverley Mill with the expectation it will be up and running there by spring 2022. Read the full story.
- Luxury ice cream maker Cream o’ Galloway has launched a new programme of events and experiences to take visitors behind the scenes of their food and farming businesses. During 2021 they will be running Ice Cream Making Workshops regularly, and a new full-day Cheese Making Course.
- And congratulations to The Five Turrets in the Scottish Borders and Nithbank Country Estate - Award Winning 5 Star Country House B&B Country Estate, Dumfries & Galloway who reached the finals in the iTravel Staycation Awards.
Also coming up:
- UNESCO National Trail of Scotland - we'll be sending out invites to an industry webinar in the new few weeks.
- Destination Marketing Recovery Fund - keep an eye on our funding page for more information.
We have over 500 members of the tourism industry in our South of Scotland Facebook group, if you haven’t already why not join us?
It’s a great way to keep us updated with your latest news, offers and a way to keep up to date with all things tourism in Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders, as well as national news.