New data from the Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) revealed that tourism in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian has received a major boost since the introduction of the Borders Railway.
The STEAM statistics showed a big improvement in key tourism performance figures in the first half of 2016 compared to the first half of 2015 before the railway was opened.
Scottish Borders Council said it was the first time in 10 years that every category measured improved.
The statistics for Borders and Midlothian tourism showed:
- The number of visitor days in hotels and bed and breakfasts rose 27%
- A 20% rise in visitor spend on food and drink
- Visitor spend on accommodation rose 17%
- A 16% rise in overall visitor spend
- The number of days visitors stayed in the Borders increased by almost 11%
- 8% increase in tourism-related employment
“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,” said councillor Stuart Bell, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development.
“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 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.”
The Scottish Government’s transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “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: “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.”