The number of tourists visiting the Falkirk area is expected to show a marked rise when new figures are released next month.
The opening of the Helix Park between Falkirk and Grangemouth and the unveiling of the internationally-acclaimed Kelpies sculptures have attracted thousands of people over the course of the summer.
An estimated 627,000 tourists visited the district last year according to Falkirk Council, securing 1500 jobs and generating £81 million for the local economy.
But those figures are expected to rocket thanks to the ‘Kelpie effect’, which has seen the horse’s heads by the Forth and Clyde canal attract considerable media attention around the world.
Designed by artist Andy Scott, the sculptures, which each consist of 300 tonnes of steel, are the centrepiece of the 740 acre Helix Park. They form a new gateway into the canal system from the Forth estuary via the River Carron.
It is hoped 350,000 tourists will visit them each year, bringing £1.5m of extra tourism revenue.
A number of tourism-related planning applications have also been submitted in recent weeks, showing confidence that the sector’s growth will prove long term.
Six holiday chalets and additional staff accommodation are planned for Letham Farm, near Airth, while Wellsfield Farm in Denny has applied to extend its existing leisure facilities.
The district’s growing reputation as a tourist attraction marks a remarkable turnaround from 60 years ago, when a national publication reported Falkirk contained not a single established hotel.
The Third Statistical Account of Scotland, written in 1953, noted: “The burgh of Falkirk does not attract visitors and makes no attempt to do so.
“With the exception of two establishments with accommodation of the most limited kind and a guest house, there is no residential hotel in Falkirk where one might put up for even a day or two. There is not a single boarding house that caters for summer visitors.
“Men having business to do in Falkirk live in Grangemouth and Polmont, or even in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Stirling, and travel each day, and until very recently there has been little thought of dealing with this dearth of hotels and boarding houses.”