Falkirk tourism: Industry aims to bounce back after devastating impact of pandemic
Falkirk has faced huge challenges over the course of the last year but now tourism businesses are set to bounce back.
VisitScotland and Falkirk Council have welcomed the fact tourism is now on the road to recovery as social distancing restrictions ease following the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The unprecedented times have called for new innovations and diversification within the industry as it was forced to adapt to operate during the crisis.
Neil Christison, VisitScotland regional director, said: “The strength of Falkirk’s tourism industry has been displayed throughout the last 18 months as many businesses strived to navigate a difficult and ever-changing situation. They’ve updated and evolved their operations and adapted to new protocol, giving visitors a sense of security.
“At VisitScotland we have continued to work closely with partners and businesses across the tourism and events industry to provide a source of guidance and support. We administered various funding strands to help businesses and as restrictions eased, restarted our targeted marketing activity to highlight all the amazing visitor experience on offer in Falkirk.”
There are several exciting tourism developments in the pipeline for Falkirk, through new attractions and investments like the Falkirk Growth Deal.
Peter Reid, Falkirk Council’s acting head of economic development, said: “Growth Deal funding provides a clear opportunity to drive greater benefits locally and regionally, by encouraging longer stays and higher levels of spending, and nationally, by increasing the area’s international attraction.
“There are four proposed projects that will impact on tourism – the Falkirk Central Sustainable Transport Hub and Green Corridor, Falkirk Arts Centre, Scotland’s Canal Centre and Scotland’s Outdoor Art Park.
“The deal is still to be ratified but hopefully this will be done by the end of the year.”
These include a £2 million refurbishment of Zetland Park in Grangemouth which has seen the creation of a fully accessible play park, upgraded tennis courts, a new pump cycle track, ebike station and sensory garden, further improvements to the local war memorial, conservation works to the gates and the neighbouring fountain plus the construction of a permanent performance space and the creation of a naturalised pond to make the park yet another tourist attraction.
The Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway – thanks to a £1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund – is currently improving and expanding its visitor experience, with better access to the museum and viewing gallery of the new engineering facility which will care for the steam locomotives.
And the Falkirk Wheel has invested in a new mini golf and additional water activities to boost customer experience, while the visitor centre is undergoing a makeover with the aims of making it more welcoming and informative.
In the longer term there is proposed Westfield bridge to look forward to and the link the elevated walkway will provided between the Helix Park and its Kelpies, Forth Valley College, Falkirk Stadium, the Gateway site and Falkirk town centre.”
There is a long road ahead for the tourism industry, but the Mr Christison believes Falkirk’s businesses are ready to rebuild.
He said: “We won't just push a button and tourism will recover – we've had a year of very little investment, job losses and business closures – it will take time and significant investment to get us back to a thriving industry."