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The Rail Thing

Press Release   •   Oct 09, 2015 12:37 BST

Visitors from across the world have been flocking to Scotland to discover the country’s latest tourism experience – the Borders Railway.

VisitScotland can reveal that tourism businesses in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders have reported significant growth since the line was opened just over a month ago, with some even celebrating a 100% increase in takings.

After global media coverage around the launch of Scotland’s latest Great Scenic Rail Journey - which connects Edinburgh to Tweedbank - visitors from America, Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy and the UK have stepped on board, stayed in accommodation nearby, and visited the many attractions on offer, from Abbotsford House to the National Mining Museum Scotland.

Tourism highlights from the first month of the Borders Railway include:

  • Abbotsford House reporting an 18.4% increase on 2014 in visitor numbers leading to an extension in the attraction’s summer opening hours into October
  • 4 out of 5 shops in Galashiels reporting takings to have doubled
  • The County House Hotel in Selkirk employing a dedicated Sir Walter Scott impersonator to greet passengers
  • The Hope Scott Wing in Abbotsford reporting a 2% increase in business directly through the opening of the railway or through people reading about Abbotsford in the media
  • Herges on the Loch in Tweedbank reporting a 50% increase in its lunches with the steam train packages having a particular impact
  • National Mining Museum Scotland reporting a real ‘buzz’ and increased interest, welcoming school trips by rail for the first time
  • Scottish Borders Council specially-appointed Borders Railway Ambassadors reporting over 600 face-to-face tourism enquiries in one week
  • Burts and Townhouse Hotels in Melrose stating that the Railway has ‘exceeded expectations’ and introducing seven new packages to coincide with the line opening
  • 20,000 visits to the Borders Railway dedicated page on VisitScotland.com
  • 17 sold out steam train journeys, carrying around 6,200 passengers
  • Galashiels Museum extending hours to open on a Sunday solely due to upsurge in visitors
  • Significant global press trips including travel journalists representing influential publications in France, Germany, US, Canada, Ireland
  • Commencement of new shuttle taxi service from Eskbank to Rosslyn Chapel
  • Scottish Borders Food Network launching a food and drink trail of the Borders’ best eateries and suppliers, accessible from the railway

Scotrail has reported this week that more than 125,000 passenger journeys have been made on The Borders Railway since opening, with demand so high that extra carriages have had to be added to many services especially at weekends, with day-trippers jumping on board to experience all that Midlothian and the Scottish Borders have to offer.

The Borders Railway started public service on 6 September 2015, and was formally opened by HM The Queen on Wednesday 9 September. The project is being delivered as part of the ‘Borders Railway Blueprint’ that sets out an ambition to fully realise the economic benefits of the Borders Railway, transform tourism opportunities and open up communities in South-East Scotland as new places to live, work, learn, play and grow.

VisitScotland is investing £367,000 in a unique three-year international marketing campaign to put the new Borders Railway on the map. The funding, provided by Scottish Borders Council and Midlothian Council, and with match funding from the Scottish Government, will be used to promote the Borders Railway and surrounding regions to national and international markets.

The original Waverley Route ran south from Edinburgh, through Midlothian and the Scottish Borders, to Carlisle. The line was named after a series of novels by Sir Walter Scott and served as an important export channel for both the wool and coal industries of that time.

Fergus Ewing, Tourism Minister said:

“The news today that tourism businesses in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders have reported significant growth since the Borders Railway reopened last month is fantastic.

“From carrying around 6,200 passengers on 17 steam train journeys to four out of five shops in Galashiels reporting a doubling of takings, the Borders Railway is breathing new life into the region.

“The Borders Railway has clearly struck a chord with local communities and tourists from across the world alike providing them with opportunities to enjoy the many wonderful attractions and experiences the Borders has to offer and I look forward to its continuing success.”

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said:

“The opening of the Borders Railway was an emotional moment for many, and such great results from just one month in service is absolutely fantastic news and more than we could ever have wished for.However, this is just the beginning and to ensure continued tourism success, we must continue to invest in and promote the experience, listening to visitor feedback and adapting as necessary.

“It is evident already that tourism is breathing new life into these regions touching on every industry, business and community and we look forward to continuing our work with partners to make the Borders Railway a success.”

Giles Ingram, CEO of Abbotsford House said:

“Abbotsford has noticed a significant increase in visitor numbers as a direct result of the opening of the Borders Railway link to Edinburgh. It has expanded our day visit market potential to Edinburgh and beyond, opening our doors to a much wider marketplace and enhancing our appeal as a destination.

“Our September visitor numbers show an 18.4% increase on last year’s figures and are trending up in October to the extent that we have extended our opening hours from 4pm to 5pm to accommodate demand this month. The ease and speed of the train link has added to the pleasure of our visitor experience here at Abbotsford and we are truly delighted.”

Learn more about what can be discovered in Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders at www.visitscotland.com. For more information on the Borders Railway, please visit www.bordersrailway.co.uk To book tickets for the Borders Railway, visit www.scotrail.co.uk

- ENDS -

Caption: Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott.

Notes to Editors

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    • 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.
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    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