LANGHOLM’S tourism industry representatives will “fight hard” to get recognition for the town’s brand as members of a south-west Scotland organisation.
John Galloway, co-owner of the Eskdale Hotel, and Ian Martin, who runs Gilnockie Tower, are on the board of Visit South West Scotland.
The board’s membership is weighted heavily in favour of Galloway and John said it was a struggle to get their voices heard.
In their favour they had established a good relationship with South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE).
SOSE has just announced its first major investment programme, providing a vital funding package to support the recovery and future of the economy in southern Scotland.
It has committed £2.7m over five years to support a tourism, marketing and destination development programme to be delivered by a new industry-led body, South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA).
The move came at a crucial time for businesses and communities preparing for tourism reopening after COVID-19.
It confirms SOSE’s commitment to look beyond the pandemic to the growth and sustainability of the south’s economy and make the region a world-class visitor destination, attracting people to live, work, visit and invest in the area for years to come.
It is the culmination of two years’ work and brings together the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership and Visit South West Scotland.
The £2.7m is on top of the start-up fund of £350,000, awarded by the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP).
It was provided by the Scottish government and supported by VisitScotland and Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders councils to develop the south’s economy.
This brings the combined investment to more than £3m.
Professor Russel Griggs, SOSE chairman, said: “This is a landmark investment and confirms our commitment to being ambitious and bold.
“We have always said we will do things differently – to work in the south, for the south – and this is a key part of this five-year partnership.
“We are looking to get to a place where we will attract more people to visit, stay and spend in southern Scotland and in a way which is sustainable and amplifies the wide-reaching benefits tourism gives rise to.
“We must focus on an optimistic future which makes our economy stronger and builds on the fantastic community spirit and commitment we have for our beautiful area.”
One of the key priorities for SSDA is to establish Scotland Starts Here as the destination brand, developing short and long-term marketing plans which target domestic and international visitors.
Another is the strategic destination development planning, focused on understanding the longer-term needs to inform capital and infrastructure investment.
John Galloway sits on the tourism sub-committee of the Langholm Alliance, which is supported by SOSE.
He has also been a member of Visit South West Scotland for three years from a business perspective.
This new body would have members from Midlothian and the Borders, along with Dumfries and Galloway so it wouldn’t be run so much in favour of businesses in the west.
The Alliance had commissioned Graham Hackett of Osprey to prepare a marketing plan for Langholm and applied for a £5,000 grant from VisitScotland’s growth fund to deliver the plan but was turned down.
John said: “We were disappointed. They said it was because it didn’t cover a big enough area geographically.
“We’re now doing more applications and would like to be able to deliver the plan next year now.
“We aren’t down and out, just a bit down but we’re knocking on doors and I’m sure we’ll get the funding from somewhere.
“It isn’t a great deal of money; it would be enough for us to get the ball rolling.
“Osprey guaranteed that executing the plan would increase footfall by 10 per cent on the High Street which would be quite considerable to most of the businesses.”
Joan McAlpine, South of Scotland SNP MSP, said: “This funding from SOSE is fantastic news for the region.
“The tourism sector has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic, especially in Dumfries and Galloway so this investment in the South of Scotland Destination Alliance couldn’t have come at a better time because we need to prepare the industry for the time when it is safe to resume.”