So, just what do we plan to invest in? We will focus on five top priorities, all of which involve a variety of exciting projects:
Priority one: Marketing and promotion
Our marketing and promotional activity will target audience segments domestically and internationally, flagging activities such as mountain biking, road cycling, walking, trail running, canoeing, horse riding and golf, as well as the arts, cultural and historical experiences – all of which combine to create a wider ‘package’ of activities that can be enjoyed here. As part of this, we will work with businesses to create experience-led tours to the area, including ‘soft adventure’ trips at the higher end of the market to take directly to luxury travel and tour agents. Our marketing activity will also include the promotion of activities that help to increase visitor numbers and spend throughout the year – and throughout the day. After all, we cannot call ourselves a true activity destination if we ignore the night-time ‘offer’: people need things to do – and places to eat and stay – after their day is done.
Priority two: Events and festivals
High-quality events and festivals are a hugely popular incentive for people to visit a destination (and enrich the lives of local communities). We will promote existing events and festivals to help them grow further, plus work with partners to create and support brand new national and international events that will directly benefit local businesses. We will also broaden the mix to make the most of the area’s cultural, artistic and historical riches, as well as outdoor activities. Together, these events will help shape our identity as an activity destination – a sense of place that feeds into all the wider branding and promotional work for the area. Just as crucially, we will develop a comprehensive, well-publicised events calendar and serve as a central source of information enabling businesses to build the benefit of local events into their own marketing initiatives, supported by the wider activity of the Tourism BID.
Priority three: Tourism infrastructure
We will use our combined voice to work with public bodies to ensure that we have the kind of on-the-ground visitor services and infrastructure expected of a leading tourism destination. This includes improvements in parking and toilet provision at visitor hotspots; improved signage and visitor information at key entry locations to the area; and a renewed focus on investment in a rural road infrastructure that is in urgent need of attention. Some of these infrastructural improvements will be driven by our plan to develop a range of new, waymarked trails and routes aimed at walkers, runners, cyclists and other users. A major, multi-phase project, it has the potential to bring huge benefits to the area. We have already seen from initiatives such as the North Coast 500 in the Highlands just what can be achieved when routes are created and packaged with imagination and creativity. In addition, our proposed development of a Tweed Canoe Trail is particularly exciting; for centuries, the Tweed has been the lifeblood of the area, but we don’t make enough of it from an adventure travel point of view. Such a trail, like the river itself, will help tell the story of the landscape and communities through which it passes.
Priority four: Corporate tourism
From meetings to incentives, conferences and exhibitions, we will target corporate groups in the activity sector as well as wider business tourism. We will build partnerships with MICE agents and promote the Tweed Valley as a key destination and an alternative to Edinburgh/Glasgow. Larger conferences and meetings will naturally be the domain of bigger hotels in the area, although the Tweed Valley is equally appealing to smaller groups looking for venues and activity packages as part of corporate get-togethers, team building weekends and product launches. By representing the Tweed Valley at key trade shows for conference and meetings organisers, as well as proactively targeting specific businesses, initially in the activity industry, we will attract a much greater percentage of this largely untapped tourism sector – with all the associated benefits for local businesses.
Priority five: Business support and advocacy
We will use our collective voice to lobby on local and national issues that are of concern to tourism businesses, including enabling businesses to shape major tourism developments locally. Bringing strength as a group of businesses rather than individuals, we will also explore opportunities for collective savings, including in areas such as utilities support. As a developing Tourism BID, we have already been in contact with Eyebright, a partner of the Scottish Towns Partnership, that works with BIDs throughout Scotland to help hundreds of business offset their levy fee through effective energy and utility management strategies.
For much more on each of these top priorities, please see pages 14 to 23 in our Business Plan.