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Birth of a New Tourism Destination

Press Release   •   Sep 14, 2015 10:06 BST

VisitScotland hopes coverage of the new Borders Railway will lead to a visitor boom as the opening week of celebrations alone reached an audience of millions worldwide.

The launch of the longest domestic railway to be constructed in Britain for over 100 years was covered by media outlets from across the globe, including Canada, USA, France, Germany, UK and Ireland.

On social media, the #mybordersrailway hashtag – created to promote the railway – was mentioned 3,980 times on the opening weekend (4 - 6 September) and reached a potential audience of 29.2 million Twitter users. On 4 September it was in the top 5 trending topics in the UK on Twitter.

The excitement of the railway is only set to grow worldwide with the launch of a VisitScotland international marketing campaign in the USA next month, followed by promotional activity in Germany early next year.

The 30-mile route is set to boost the tourism economy and grow the 11,000 growth sector businesses operating in Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders – which amounted to £21 billion of gross value added to the Scottish economy in 2013. The food and drink sector and creative industries in Midlothian and Scottish Borders alone contribute £103 million to the economy.

VisitScotland is supporting attractions, accommodation providers, local producers and pubs and restaurants in the vicinity of the Borders Railway in developing new ideas, products and experiences to further boost the visitor economy which supports 6,000 jobs.

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said:

The start of services on the Borders Railway was not only a historic moment for Scotland but a truly global affair with an audience of millions watching both the excellent coverage from the launch weekend, but also HM The Queen opening the line as she celebrated becoming Britain’s longest serving monarch.

The magical Scottish Borders is one of Scottish tourism’s greatest assets with its rich heritage and beautiful and inspiring landscape. The Borders Railway, which delves deep into Sir Walter Scott country, presents a huge opportunity for Scottish tourism to breathe new life into the area, touching on every industry, business and community.”

Supermodel and current Pringle of Scotland muse, Anna Freemantle, joined VisitScotland to launch the railway on 4 September with a special Media Day, featuring around 100 invited journalists, before it was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 9 September – the day that she became Britain's longest serving Monarch.

A special ‘Golden Ticket’ Day was held on Saturday 5 September. Public services began on 6 September with more than 2,500 passengers using the service on the first day.

Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities said:

“The celebrations to mark the completion of the Borders Railway were a fitting way to mark the fulfilment of a project that will open up a unique and iconic part of the country to visitors, and a promise made by the Scottish Government to reconnect residents of the Borders to the Scottish rail network and beyond.

“Having been there myself at the official opening on Wednesday to sample the atmosphere and feel-good factor I have no doubt that the new line will serve as a catalyst for major investment in the area.

“Not only is the Borders Railway a success by the scale of its ambition, but also for bringing together communities, councils, and Government to deliver a challenging infrastructure project both on time and on budget. Such vision and collaboration means that the Borders has become a symbol of the renaissance of our railways in Scotland.”

Danny Cusick, Senior Director Food & Drink, Tourism and Textiles at Scottish Enterprise and Chair of the Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group, said:

“Borders Railway will breathe new life into the economies of Scottish Borders and Midlothian, and will create a tourism and investment boost for the whole of Scotland. The Borders Railway Blueprint aims to maximise the economic benefits of the new rail connection between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, capitalising on the transformational impact of the new line in creating new places to live, work, visit, learn, play and grow.”

A ScotRail Alliance spokesperson said:

"There's a great buzz about the Borders Railway, particularly after such a successful opening weekend, with more than 2,500 journeys last Sunday alone – the first day of passenger rail services to and from Tweedbank.

"We're pleased to be working with Scottish Rail Preservation Society to run our first-ever steam trains. These are proving popular with customers and helping boost the Borders economy. Due to the huge demand, we added extra carriages to 16 of our 17 Borders steam trains, with these additional tickets selling out within a week."

Notes to Editors

    • Follow us on twitter: @visitscotnews
    • VisitScotland is Scotland’s national tourism organisation. Its core purpose is to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
    • The organisation’s core objective is to contribute to the Tourism 2020 Strategy ambition of growing tourism revenues by £1 billion by 2020.
    • This will be supported by seven overarching strategies:
      1. Marketing: we will market Scotland and its outstanding assets to visitors from all parts of the world, including the promotion of Scotland to people living in Scotland       to visit different parts of the country
      2. Events: we will support the national events strategy and its delivery, and sustain, develop and promote Scotland’s international profile as one of the world’s foremost events destinations
      3. Internationalisation and International Engagement: we will utilise all our platforms to enable Scottish-based tourism businesses to better understand international       opportunities and market to a global audience and we will work within One       Scotland Partnerships to optimise the potential of Scotland’s Diaspora and our strategic partners at regional, European and global levels
      4. Customer Experience: we will provide information and inspiration to visitors both locally and globally via their preferred medium of choice
      5. Quality and Sustainability: we will provide support and advice to businesses, with the goal of improving the quality and sustainability of the tourism sector in Scotland. We will provide quality assurance to visitors through our Quality Schemes
      6. Inclusive Tourism: we will strive to make tourism in Scotland inclusive and available to all
      7. Working in Partnership: we will listen to and work with the industry, partners and communities to shape our offering and support
    • VisitScotland works together with tourism businesses to make tourism a success for everyone and ensure the industry continues to grow.
    • The organisation employs 700 people and has offices and VisitScotland Information Centres across Scotland.
    • According to a recent Deloitte study, the tourism economy supports 270,000 jobs in Scotland in 20,000 diverse businesses. The same study calculates that the tourism      economy contributes £11 billion annually (direct and indirect impact, including day visits) and supports around 10 per cent of employment in Scotland. Almost 16 million tourists take overnight trips to Scotland.
    • For VisitScotland’s press releases go to http://www.visitscotland.org/media_centre.aspx, tourism statistics and frequently asked questions go to http://www.visitscotland.org/
    • Where possible, a Gaelic speaker will be made available for broadcast interviews on request (Far an tèid iarraidh, agus far am bheil sin nar comas, bruidhinnidh neach le Gàidhlig aig agallamh)
    • For holiday information on Scotland go to www.visitscotland.com
    • For information about business events in Scotland go to www.conventionscotland.com


    Year of Food and Drink 2015

    • 2015 is the Year of Food and Drink, a celebration of Scotland’s natural larder and the role that food and drink plays in shaping our economic success.
    • Scotland generates over £2.5m per day through food and drink tourism.
    • A series of themed months will create an appetite for key areas of Scotland’s food and drink industries – from seafood and whisky to berries and high-quality meat
    • For more information, visit www.visitscotland.com/tastescotland