‘VisitFalkirk’ bid to build on major tourism success

A familiar local sight which could soon be pointing could-be visitors from the North of England towards Falkirk.
A familiar local sight which could soon be pointing could-be visitors from the North of England towards Falkirk.

The soaraway success of Falkirk tourism, which has attracted hundreds of new jobs, is set to spur the launch of a new local tourism body.

Councillors have agreed in principle to try and build on a jobs and business surge – which brought nearly £106m to the area’s economy in 2015 – by setting up a body to generate new funding for marketing.

To take Falkirk’s success a vital step forward new external cash is said to be needed to pay for a fully-fledged Falkirk tourism marketing hub.

The aim will then be to pitch at potentially lucrative markets such as the north of England by marketing key selling points.

These include the area’s enviable position as an easy-access location in the heart of Central Scotland, and its array of heritage and recreation amenities.

In March the authority will find if it has been successful in gaining the extra resources required from a growth fund run by main tourism body VisitScotland.

The council’s executive meeting heard on Tuesday that the 2015 revenue draw from tourism is up 45 per cent on 2009, when it earned just under £73 million.

Figures for 2016’s performance aren’t yet available, but appear set to be similarly impressive.

In just one year, 2014 to 2015, the area saw the biggest visitor revenue increase in mainland Scotland.

Official statistics show 1,675 full time equivalent jobs were involved in the tourism sector in the Falkirk area in 2009.

That rose in six years to 1920 equivalent jobs - a rise of more than 14 per cent.

A report by director of development services Rhona Geisler states: “Tourism in the Falkirk area is continuing to grow and, as can be seen from the latest figures, it is becoming an increasingly important sector within the area’s economy.”

Themes including heritage, family fun, cycling and film locations are seen as prime selling points, but, says Mrs Geisler, council cash strictures mean there’s a need to find the means to market the area to its full potential.

The Helix and the Falkirk Wheel were, unsurprisingly, star performers, but the area is also benefiting from an “Outlander effect”.

Callendar House, the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, and Blackness Castle all featured in the hugely successful made-for-TV series – and have all seen strong growth.

The Falkirk Wheel recorded 595,750 visitors in 2015 – the latest figures available – up from 414,386 in 2012.

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, the council’s tourism spokesperson, said: “We’re working hard to make the Falkirk area a great destination, offering world-class attractions, high quality experiences and great value for money.

“I’m delighted that more and more people are visiting the area, spending money in the local economy and creating jobs in the tourism sector.

“I hope the overall upward trend continues. Of course, we shouldn’t rest of on our laurels. There are lots we can still do to make things even better for locals and visitors alike.

“Hopefully we receive the external funding to make further pushes into the English market.

“I’m also pleased that we can work up plans to make VisitFalkirk – currently an informal arrangement of key partners and attractions – into a more formal body to drive tourism forward and attract new money.”