Skip to main content
Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 01/04/2021

The challenges faced by you, our industry, have never at any point been underestimated in the last year. The financial and emotional burden carried by our tourism colleagues has been immense. 

It has been a turbulent and challenging year for the Scottish tourism and events industry – but the announcement last month from the First Minister outlining indicative dates for the reopening of much of our industry was welcome news. It’s a glimmer of light in what has been dark times. We continue to focus on delivering much-needed funding support to businesses as quickly as possible with more than 200 of our staff having been redeployed to deal with the 5,000 applications we have received and administer funds on behalf of the Scottish Government.  

I wanted to take time to update the south of Scotland’s tourism industry on our activity as we work towards a safe reopening. Whilst the tourism industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen Scots getting out and enjoying the countryside. But it's important that while people make the most of our spectacular outdoors, they do so in a responsible manner that respects local communities, agriculture and wildlife. As a result, we have come together to develop a Scotland-wide strategic and coordinated approach to visitor management.

What is paramount for us is the desire to work with communities to ensure that both visitors and locals can have fantastic experiences when tourism starts to rebuild itself. We understand that tourism businesses are a vital part of communities, helping them to thrive and we want to ensure that the welfare of communities is considered as much as the needs of visitors as we go forward.  

There’s a lot to consider and we’ll keep you informed of the latest developments and guidance from across the sector.

Paula Ward, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director

Paula Ward, Regional Leadership Director

Visitor management

We’ve announced a responsible tourism campaign to highlight the importance of exploring Scotland responsibly. Our campaign aims to address some of the issues experienced in 2020, when we saw a rise in domestic visitors who sought to discover and enjoy Scotland’s countryside.

As more people enjoy the outdoors as the weather improves, and as lockdown restrictions gradually ease, our campaign calls for visitors to be considerate of the impact that our visits can have on the landscapes, wildlife and communities that Scotland’s famed for. 

To complement the campaign, we’ve created a dedicated responsible tourism page on our consumer site, responsible tourism itineraries for the travel trade and practical information and advice for Scotland’s tourism sector.

The activity supports the visitor management strategy which was announced by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, on Friday 19 March. Find out more about the strategy which asks visitors to protect our countryside, respect local communities, wildlife and landscapes while enjoying Scotland's natural beauty.

Scotland, yours to enjoy. Responsibly.

South of Scotland Destination Alliance appoint CEO

The South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) has announced the organisation’s first major steps to making the south a world-class destination and supporting the region’s economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19, with the appointment of its inaugural Chief Executive and the unveiling of a new look Scotland Starts Here campaign.

SSDA Chief Executive, Ross McAuley

Ross McAuley, a Scot with more than 20 years international commercial, entrepreneurial and marketing experience, will take on the leadership role in May. In addition to driving forward the SSDA’s ambitious destination development plans, which include increasing tourism spend in the region to £1 billion by 2030 and creating 6,500 new jobs, he will oversee the SSDA’s commitment to enabling the region’s tourism and hospitality industry to recover and flourish in the wake of COVID-19.

We’re delighted to welcome Ross McAuley as the inaugural CEO of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance. His appointment comes at an important time for tourism in the south of Scotland, as the industry faces the difficult challenge of recovering from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a year of job losses and business closures, it will take time, significant investment, funding support and strong leadership to rebuild this vital part of Scotland’s economy. With the right support and partnership working between agencies and industry, tourism and events can lead the economic recovery and boost inward investment where it is needed most.

Malcolm Roughead OBE, VisitScotland Chief Executive

Borderlands Growth Deal

Annan water

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal was formally signed on 18 March 2021, bringing up to £452 million of fresh investment to the Borderlands area. Ministers of the UK and Scottish Governments and representatives of the five councils of the Borderlands Partnership signed the deal at a virtual ceremony.

The deal covers the largest geographical area of any regional growth deal negotiated with the UK and Scottish Governments and is the first cross-border deal. The regional partnership is made up of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.

The Borderlands Growth Deal: Full Deal Document sets out further details on the projects. Visit the partnership website for more information.


Laptop on table

Funding continues to be a focus for the 200 VisitScotland staff that have been deployed to administer funds on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The latest fund was announced at the Scottish Tourism Alliaiance conference by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Holiday vouchers, discounts for days out and a marketing fund are included in a new £25 million tourism recovery programme.

The programme, which has been developed by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) in partnership with businesses, will support the Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce objectives.

Information on all the support that is available can be found on our financial support page

Training and webinars

We’ve been running a series of webinars in partnership with DigitalBoost focused on digital skills such as search engine optimisation, social media, and analytics. These webinars are available to watch back on our YouTube channel.

Keep up to date with our free training and webinars available to tourism businesses in the south of Scotland. Our calendar of virtual industry events is updated with all upcoming VisitScotland and partner events, which you can browse by region.

Our latest webinar series

Scotland Reconnect

Several hundred Scottish tourism businesses will have the chance to connect and do business with tour operators and travel agents from around the globe at Scotland Reconnect, from 27 – 29 April.

Scotland Reconnect 2021 banner image

Scotland Reconnect 2021our digital trade workshop event, is now open for registration, for trade-ready Scottish tourism businesses. Register your space today.

South of Scotland Destination Alliance

Glentress mountain biking

Scotland Starts Here

Scotland Starts Here launched to the industry on Monday 29 March as part of Scottish Tourism Month. It comprises of a travel inspiration website, a mobile app and a suite of digital marketing assets including podcasts, eBooks, videos, blogs and social media advertising.

For the launch of Scotland Starts Here, we caught up with members from across the south of Scotland – from coast to coast – on why they got involved in the SSDA and Scotland Starts Here. 

SSDA events

SSDA has been holding a series of virtual Local Product Awareness Showcase Webinars which started in January 2021. The third event in this series is on 13 April at 10am – 11.15am. 

There's a fantastic panel of speakers lined up to give insight into some outstanding businesses from across the south of Scotland tourism community.

Speakers will continue their Local Product Awareness Series, designed by the SSDA team to help strengthen the collective resilience of our region, encourage local collaboration, networking and help us all get to know each other a little better. Sign up for the webinar today.

Scotland Starts Here launch video

Regional content

Our marketing team is constantly creating new content for, our consumer facing website. As well as new content we also edit our blogs, pages and articles with any new updates, we add subtitles and we transcribe them for languages.

Southerness Lighthouse, man and dog

Here's some of our new content featuring the south of Scotland:


Sir Walter Scott 250 image

A major international celebration of the 250th anniversary of the life and works of Sir Walter Scott was launched on Saturday 20 March, World Storytelling Day, with a spectacular light show sponsored by EventScotland.

We also hosted a #WalterScott250 social media takeover on our South of Scotland Facebook group. We shared lots of activity from the launch on both and We had almost 2,000 views of the posts and over 200 people engaged by commenting, liking or sharing increasing the reach.

Thanks for joining in with this project. There’s going to be lots more wonderful events over the year to look forward to.

Anniversary launch film

Tour of Britain

Tour of Britain cyclists

The Tour of Britain has been a key part of our portfolio of sporting events for a number of years and we're delighted to have it returning to Scotland for two stages and visiting five new locations, one of which is Hawick.

We’re excited that the Tour of Britain is returning for 2021 after the cancellation of the 2020 event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more.

Scottish Thistles Awards cancelled

Thistles Award trophies

Due to the continued pressure and uncertainty that Scotland’s tourism and events industry faces, it is with regret that we, in collaboration with Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards (HITA), Aberdeen City & Shire Tourism Awards (ACSTA) and the industry panel, have taken the decision to cancel this year’s programme of Scottish Thistle Awards.

Nominations and entries for the 2021/22 Scottish Thistle Awards, which celebrate success, innovation, excellence and best practice in the tourism and hospitality industry, were due to open in the coming weeks.

We'll keep you informed of plans for the re-starting of these events and we will look forward to having the opportunity to give our industry the recognition it deserves at future Scottish Thistle Awards.

Lambathon 2021


It's wonderful to see so many south of Scotland businesses taking part in this year's Lambathon. Organised by Go Rural, Lambathon was first created in 2020 as a means of cheering people up during the first national coronavirus lockdown. 

It saw a number of farms across the country use Facebook to deliver daily tours showing the ins and outs of lambing season. As well as the unique opportunity to see tiny lambs make their first appearance in the world, viewers also got to meet the friendly faces behind each farm, learning more about day to day activities and exploring the land together.

Nothing says spring like lambs and we look forward to celebrating this event virtually over our region.

South of Scotland Facebook group

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.